The Food Costco Sells More Of Than Any Other Retailer

Costco isn't what you'd call a specialty store. The wholesale-priced items at the members-only retail giant run the gamut, from bulk mac and cheese and rotisserie chicken to socks and lawnmowers. Some shoppers enter their nearest outpost of the beige emporium with a list and a time stamp in hand (five minutes in produce, five at the fish counter, five in dairy, five in electronics). Others wander the oversized aisles hoping to be surprised: A discounted mattress here, a year's supply of pet food there. Generally speaking, there are very few grocery- and home-related goods you won't find at Costco. If "one-stop shop" was a distinction awarded to only one retail chain, Costco would get the crown.

Once members (or friends of members, to cite a clever workaround for those who don't have Costco cards) have found everything on their shopping lists, they'll often make one last stop at the food court. Of all the store's departments, that's where Costco sells more of a particular item than any other retailer. 

Hot dogs for everybody

For many meat-eating Costco members, a trip to the price club culminates in the food court with a Kirkland Signature all-beef hot dog on a sesame bun. According to the Puget Sound Business Journal, Costco sells more hot dogs than any other grocery retailer. As of 2020, the chain slings 151 million dogs a year, which accounts for $226 million of its annual profit.

Some fans might argue that Costco sells so many Kirkland dogs because they taste good, but we're pretty sure that, like many Costco goods, the main draw is the price. Even amidst global food inflation, Costco has kept its hot dog combo meal — which comes with a bottomless 20-ounce soda — at a cool $1.50. In September 2022, Costco CFO Richard Galanti told the Wall Street Journal that the beloved combo meal is "sacrosanct" and that the chain will do its best to keep the meal at the same price it's had since 1985.

Death threats call for desperate measures

Longtime fans of Costco's hot dog combo meal might remember when the chain used Hebrew National franks as opposed to Kirkland Signature. The latter was eventually swapped in for the former, and the switch allowed Costco to keep its wieners cheap by sourcing them from its own plant — a move that appeased not only the customers, but also a very scary billionaire. 

According to an interview cited by Food & Wine, Costco co-founder Jim Sinegal once threatened Costco President and CEO W. Craig Jelinek when he suggested boosting the price of the hot dogs to keep up with production costs. "If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you," Sinegal allegedly said. "Figure it out." Yikes. As Food & Wine aptly puts it: "When given the choice between your life or processed meat, you're best to choose your life every single time." Luckily for everyone (and especially for Jelinek), the Kirkland brand dogs are still as popular as ever. According to Costco's website, the franks don't include any by-products corn syrup, or fillers.

Not all food court items have frank protection

Loyal patrons of Costco's frank and soda deal might find it hard to believe that some shoppers prefer to chow down on other items in the retailer's food court. A Costco lunch might include a slice (or whole pie) of pizza, a hot turkey and provolone sandwich, a chicken caesar salad, a chicken bake (essentially a Hot Pocket), or a BBQ brisket sandwich, plus ice cream, a berry sundae, or a churro for dessert.

Those who veer away from the Costco hot dog lifestyle will also be paying a different price. As much as the chain prides itself on staying conscious of affordable prices — its name is short for "cost company," after all — it's not immune to the high cost of food production and distribution that's swept the globe for over a year. While data shows that food inflation rates may have finally reached its peak, not every ingredient is in the clear. While the cost of chicken fell by 1.3% in October 2022, CNBC reports that egg prices rose 10%. This is likely due to the massive avian flu outbreak that has wiped out droves of egg-laying birds. 

Earlier this summer, however, chicken prices were still high. According to Food & Wine, Costco raised the price of its chicken bake from $2.99 to $3.99 in July, also bumping the price of its 20-ounce soda from 10 cents to $0.69.