Costco Shoppers Are Mourning This Beloved Food Court Staple

Ah, Costco. While some of us might love the wholesale giant for its super deals on bulk items such as toilet paper, for its yummy prepared foods such as mandarin orange chicken, or for its extensive bakery options, many of us frequent the chain for its food court. Is there any place better to relax, after a long day of shopping, with a $1.50 hot dog and soda combo, or a doughy "chicken bake" (kinda like a calzone filled with chicken breast and cheese)? We think not.

That's why many Costco shoppers were devastated when, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the wholesaler shut down its food courts across the country for social-distancing reasons (via CNN). While shopping continued, the happy times of enjoying beef brisket sandwiches and fruit smoothies came to an end. Happily, Costco food courts began to open back up in April. And one popular item that shoppers couldn't wait to dive into was some piping-hot pizza, which the store offers by the slice or by the pie.

Currently, Costco food courts offer either pepperoni or cheese pizzas, and one once-hallowed item that hasn't come back to the food court menu has been sorely missed. That would be the elusive combo pizza, topped with vegetables, pepperoni, and sausage (via Eat This, Not That!). All over the internet, sad pizza lovers are asking for its return.

What's a Costco food court without a combo pizza?

Pre-pandemic, one of Costco food court's most beloved items was the combo pizza, a hefty pie loaded with sliced veggies, pepperoni, sausage, and plenty of cheese (via Eat This, Not That!). But even as the wholesale giant's food courts began opening up over the spring, this option has not returned to menus. Combo pizza fans are downtrodden.

On a Reddit thread, user mci25 posted a pic of a Costco food court menu still advertising the sought-after pizza, even though it's no longer available. "Still hanging in the food court. RIP," the user wrote. So far, the thread has garnered more than 130 comments from fellow bereaved pizza-eaters. "I miss combo," wrote HardHustle84. "I'm hanging onto the hope that one day it will return," added jayste4.

Reddit isn't the only place where folks have gathered to reminisce over the combo. A year ago, user Tobi O. started a petition to bring the pizza back. Entitled "Bring Back the Combo Pizza to Costco Food Courts," the petition has gathered close to 6,000 signatures. "It is imperative that Costco Wholesale does the right thing and satisfies its membership holders by restoring combination pizza to all of its food courts IMMEDIATELY," the petition reads in part. We hope the petition will help restore order to Costco food courts. In the meantime, catch us happily scarfing down a cheese pizza instead.

The internet has thoughts about the fate of the combo pizza

Costco might be keeping mum about why the combo pizza disappeared in the first place and whether it might be making a comeback, but we can always count on the internet to deliver a few crowdsourced theories on the subject. A few non-Costco employees took to Quora to offer their best guesses as to why the combo pizza had disappeared. "I'm thinking the real reason is they want to keep the menu simple and stripped down. If you notice there aren't as many employees behind the counter," one Quora user, who claimed to be a retired teacher, said. "Some items most likely can be more hands-on and they want no contact ordered. Also, less cleaning involved."

Another user, listed as a logistics specialist, said: "Store traffic was down — Supremes and veggies don't cost much difference to make, there's just less demand for them. [...] So to keep service time (low wait) they reduced options so they can premake the pizzas, and just toss them in as needed. Usually, week to week a day's volume is consistent," (via Quora).

The pandemic might explain the disappearance of the combo pizza

These Quora users would have good reasons to think the way they do about the factors that determined the fate of the combo pizza. When the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to close dining rooms and to pivot to takeout, many chains including McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Subway ended up having to simplify their menus so kitchens could speed up service and slash waiting times in the process (via CNBC). 

"Simplification" was also seen by restaurant consultants as the easiest way to improve overall efficiency, which includes saving on labor, cutting down on deliveries, and lowering food waste. It was also considered to be a good way to cut overheads without compromising standards (via FSR). For a company like Costco, which made its mark on the retail industry by embracing simplification, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to imagine store management doing away with a slightly complicated food court item to keep production costs down at a time when they needed to.