Free samples returning to Costco in a sign of COVID’s defeat

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Nature is healing: Free samples will soon return to the aisles of Costcos across the nation. 

The reinstatement of pro bono noshing and “return to full sampling” will be phased in starting early next month and continue through the end of June, Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said in an earnings call Thursday, CNN reported. 

The complimentary nibbles have been unavailable to customers for 14 months after the company put the program on hiatus in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Approximately 170 US Costco branches will have the beloved hallway tastings back next week, with “most of the remaining locations” before July. 

“Increased safety protocols” will be put into place, including samples prepared in smaller batches and behind plexiglass, then given to customers one at a time, Galanti said. 

The beginning of next month will also see the return of indoor seating to a majority of Costco’s 560 locations in the US, although there will be “more physical separation” between seating, with tables cut from either six or eight seats down to four. That means the food courts will have “half the seating capacity as we had before,” Galanti said. Some branches will get outdoor seating. 

Customers also can look forward to new churro menus beginning July 4, plus ice cream taking the place of frozen yogurt for the summer months.

Costco’s food courts have famously offered hot dogs, pizza and other bites that are treasured by shoppers, who pay $60 to $120 annually for their Costco membership. Galanti noted that food courts would probably need “another several months” to bounce back to 2019 sales levels. 

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