Secrets of the Costco food court

We all know that Costco is the place to go for $1.50 hot dogs and ridiculously cheap pizzas, but there's plenty more you might not know about your favorite food court. Here are some fun facts to regale your fellow diners with next time you're noshing on chicken bakes and churros.

The pizza making process is insanely fast

Would you believe that in under 30 seconds a big blob of dough gets turned into a pizza waiting to be dressed with all those delicious toppings? Well, it does, thanks to a dough squisher and a pizza sauce turntable (yes, of course those are the technical names). After the pizza takes a spin on the saucer, it's ready to get cheesed and topped, which is still done by humans because robots don't run Costco — yet.

Not all stores have turned to machines for their pizza making though. Some continue to opt for the handmade approach, and employees speculate that it has to do with how much money that particular store is willing to shell out for food court conveniences. 

Frankly, I wouldn't care if it was made on the moon — it's great pizza any way you slice it.

The chicken bake is actually made fresh

Given that you can buy boxes of the Kirkland chicken bakes in the freezer section, this might come as a bit of a surprise…

When asked whether the chicken bakes served in the food court are the same as the frozen ones available for purchase, one Costco employee said in a Reddit AMA, "The ones in the food court are made fresh every day from scratch." Another employee explained the process: "We use a fifth of a thing of pizza dough, flatten it out with the pizza dough press. Then we mix together chicken breast strips we've cut up, mozzarella, bacon, and Caesar dressing. Put that in the middle and roll it up!"

No wonder the food court version tastes so much better.

It's one of America's largest pizza chains

Costco is great at everything it does, and selling pizza is no exception. They actually rank as the 14th biggest pizza chain in the U.S., thanks to almost 500 stores selling slices and whole pies. Compare that to Pizza Hut, which ranked number one in 2015 with an astounding 15,000 locations, and it's a pretty impressive statistic for a warehouse store.

You can eat without a membership

Craving a cheap hot dog but don't have a Costco membership? If you can find a store with the food court located outside you can chow down any time you want without shelling out for that annual fee. Score!

You might be able to score extra toppings on your pizza

According to one Costco food court employee, if you're ordering a whole pizza and ask for extra toppings, you just might get 'em: "It really depends on how busy the store is and how easygoing the manager/supervisor combo is. My current one bends over backward for members but the meat is super expensive. They would probably put a little extra in but [not] double…" A customer chimed in saying, "I like to call mine in. You can ask for all sorts of stuff but they are limited on what they can or will do. One nearby food court insists all the veggies are premixed so they can't put just onions or just peppers. Another local food court will do that no issue but they won't do extra cheese."

It never hurts to ask, right?

You can hack the menu for an ice cream float

There aren't many secret menu hacks to be had at the Costco food court, but here's an easy one: DIY an ice cream float by simply ordering a vanilla frozen yogurt and a soda.

A lot of oil is used to make the pizza

Based on how greasy the bottom of the pizza box can be, it's not too surprising that a lot of oil is used in the cooking process. One food court worker lamented the process saying, "The only thing that concerns me is how much oil gets used in the process of making a pizza skin (the stretched out and sauced pizza dough). Too much. And when you don't use the corporate requested amount because you think it's too much and corporate notices? You use more oil to avoid being in trouble. Some managers overcompensate and use a quarter cup of oil+ when making them."

But let's be honest — we weren't expecting a fat-free meal from the Costco food court anyway.

The U.S. is missing out on some delicious menu items

Depending what country you're in, you might find some variety on the food court menu that you don't see in the U.S. While you'll always see the standards like hot dogs and pizza, you'll also find specialty regional cuisine. Here's what you're missing out on…

In Canada, you can get your hands on poutine (french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds). Korea and Taiwan offer a bulgogi beef bake instead of the classic chicken bake. In Mexico you'll be able to score a seafood-topped pizza, while in Japan it's clam chowder. And if you're looking for comfort food, the UK offers cottage pie and jacket potatoes (baked potatoes with special fillings).

Maybe it's time to add Costco to the must-eat list when traveling abroad?

They sell a mind-boggling number of hot dogs

When you think of how many people are jammed into the food court at any given time, you would assume that Costco is selling a whole lot of hot dogs. But would you guess that they sell over 100 million in a year?! Well, they do, and that's four times more than all the major league ballparks combined (not to mention a cool $150,000,000…).

They're testing a cheeseburger

You might soon be able to get a big juicy burger next time you hit the food court. Costco began testing a cheeseburger in select Southern California and Seattle area stores last year. This showstopper consists of a 1/3-pound organic beef patty nestled in a challah bun all snuggled up with romaine lettuce, smoked Thousand Island dressing, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese.

Rumor has it that more locations will start offering the cheeseburger by March 2018, and if the hot dogs are any indication, this is fantastic news!

The pizza discs might not be washed after each use

According to one food court employee, the pizza discs (the metal plates the dough cooks on) don't get washed after each use. This may or may not bother you, depending on how picky you are about cross contamination, but since Costco does not currently offer a gluten-free pizza, the issue would mostly be cleanliness.

There's an easy way to avoid long food court lines

The lunchtime lines at Costco can be a nightmare, but if you happen to be buying anything from the store, just add your food order at the register when you're checking out. You'll bypass the food court lines and since your meal is prepaid, you also won't have to worry about having cash handy.

The price of the pizza has never changed

There aren't too many places you can score a fully loaded 18-inch pie for under $10, but along with the hot dog price, the Costco pizza has remained at its $9.95 price point since its inception in 1989. Sure, you could get a frozen pizza for less, but you won't find that quality and heft in any freezer aisle.

Employees don't get a discount

Costco has long been ranked one of the best places to work in the U.S. And since they were just named "America's Best Large Employer for 2017" it might seem a bit odd to learn that employees don't get a discount at the food court. They do, however, get a free executive membership which equals about 73 hot dog combos, so it all evens out in the end.  

They discontinued the ice cream bar and people got MAD

Once upon a time, Costco sold the dreamiest, creamiest, most amazing chocolate-dipped vanilla ice cream bar rolled in chopped almonds. It was enormous, and it was only $1.50. And then, because the world is a cruel, cruel place, it got discontinued. Cue the outrage.

To say people were displeased would be an understatement. A petition was created. Facebook groups were formed. But still Costco did not bring back the bar. Here's to hoping this is the year that happens.