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Costco Food Courts May Soon Require Membership — But There Could Be a Work-around

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If you're used to running in for a quick Costco pizza or Costco hot dog without a membership, those days may soon be over. Big changes are coming to the beloved Costco food court membership rules, and lots of people are not happy.

Select Costco food courts have added some signage announcing that starting April 8, 2024, you'll need an active membership to take advantage of the low Costco food court prices. This move is part of an overall membership crackdown we've been tracking over the last year.

But when we checked out two Costco food court locations on April 8 — one in Wesley Chapel, Florida, and another in Kennesaw, Georgia — we didn't see any new signage, nor did the food courts require a membership. And employees we spoke with hadn't heard of a specific date. So this change might be gradually rolling out nationwide over the coming months.

It's unknown right now how these new Costco food court membership rules will be enforced. Will Costco employees be doing physical checks? Will we have to scan our cards at the ordering kiosks? Or will more stores post automatic scanners at entrances like those they recently tested to cut down on Costco membership sharing?

What’s Behind This Big Costco Food Court Change


During the March 2024 Costco earnings call, Costco executives mentioned they have been taking steps to cut down on membership sharing, which saw a spike ever since the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of those measures is enforcing the rules that the food court is for members only like Redditors noticed happening at a Costco in Orlando, Florida.

After all, Costco's guiding principle listed on their website is to "do the right thing — for our members, our employees..." Costco prides itself on focusing on its members, so naturally, it makes sense that they are implementing rules to benefit them over those who have bent the rules in the past.

On the earnings call in March, former Costco Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti stated, "We also had complaints from members saying, 'I pay. Why shouldn't they?' So the view was we needed to just shore that up a little bit, and we did."

In my opinion, enforcing the rules about Costco food court membership might curb the crowding and help the lines go faster. Currently, there isn't a rule about non-members enjoying the food court at my local Costco in Wesley Chapel, Florida, but the employees I spoke with said that change is coming.

The Costco Food Court Trick You Can Use — For Now


To eat at the food court without a membership, get your hands on a Costco Shop Card (aka a Costco gift card). It's your ticket to shopping and eating like a regular member. But here's the catch — you'll need a current Costco member to buy the Shop Card for you.

Keep in mind that you'll need the Shop Card handy to get past the entrance check, even if you're just there to browse. Costco employees are pretty vigilant about checking for a valid membership card or Shop Card when shoppers enter the store.

If you're planning to use the Costco Shop Card as payment at the food court, make sure you get the physical version and not the digital gift card that goes to your email address. They don't accept digital Shop Cards as payment at the Costco food court, self-checkout lines, or gas stations.

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