Costco is a magical and often mysterious place. Ever since the company first opened a warehouse in Seattle in 1983, bulk shopping has never been easier. Until Amazon, actually, but that's for a different time and place. And if Amazon delivers bulk products, then Costco still has a few things that the online retailer lacks, like a food court and some fan-favorite foods like the Costco hot dogs.
We've raved about the best buys from Kirkland Signature, Costco's private label. Introduced in 1992, it was designed to provide quality products at discounted prices. Part of these discounted prices extend into that beloved food court offering Costco members a great hot dog deal on what really is good food.
Just about every Costco location has a food court, and across the nation, no matter which Costco location you shop at, the menu is basically the same. The $1 Costco hot dog and soda combo is by far the food court's most popular buy, followed by the pizza, frozen yogurt, and sandwiches. So in honor of the ever-reliable Costco hot dog, here are 10 fast facts you should know.
10. The Costco hot dog and 20-ounce drink combo is $1.50 and has been since 1985.
The drink combination even includes free refills, and I can almost promise the cheapest place you'll find beef hot dogs outside of Costco is at kids' sport concession stands. While this combo hasn't changed in over 30 years, Costco's food court has made other changes to their menu items, including the controversial decision in 2018 to remove polish dogs from the food court menu, a move that still has some people unhappy.
In an old article on Mental Floss, the company's current CEO W. Craig Jelinek approached Costco co-founder and previous CEO Jim Sinegal, with the idea of raising the price of the signature hot dog. The former CEO responded, "If you raise (the price of the) effing hot dog, I will kill you. Figure it out."
9. Contrary to myth, the hot dog is a quarter-pound 100% beef dog.
In 2008, the brand stopped advertising Hebrew National as the supplier and began featuring Kirkland Brand beef hot dogs in Costco food court.
8. The dog has gotten even bigger since its debut.
Despite the same price tag, the Costco hot dog is about 10 percent thicker than the original quarter-pound version in 1984.
7. Before the food court, there was a hot dog cart.
Jay de Geus ran the hot dog cart outside of the San Diego, California warehouse for a number of years before it moved to include food courts in its design.
The hot dog cart was gifted to Costco from Hebrew National.
6. Costco sells more than four times the number of hot dogs than all of those sold at MLB stadiums each years.
That's a mouthful, so let's break it down. If you combined yearly hot dog sales from every Major League Baseball stadium in the U.S., Costco will have outsold them four times over.
In 2015, Costco sold 128 million hot dogs. They tend to sell, on average, 100 million hot dogs yearly. Wild, huh?
5. Kirkland Signature's brand nixed the unhealthy additives.
Apart from being a 100% pure beef hot dog, Costco's hot dogs don't have: by-products, corn syrup, phosphates, fillers, or artificial colors or flavors. One could say that they can get away with using less additives because they sell so many each year, but really it just proves the quality of Kirkland Signature.
4. They don't make money on them, but it's not necessary.
The dollar dogs don't do Costco any favors with the low price tag, but it pays dividends by adding to the foot traffic in the store. In an increasingly online world, the food court of Costco is one of the major draws that helps shoppers and membership holders justify the expense.
3. The steamed buns make the difference.
Costco chefs from the food court steam the bun (and the dog!), which results in a soggier dog when wrapped in foil and handed over. However, many feel that's one of the benefits of the Costco hot dog.
2. In Japan, the hot dogs aren't beef.
Unpopular with Japanese customers, the switch in Costco food courts resulted in pork hot dogs. Could it be that the quarter-pound beef franks just weren't appealing? Supposedly, you can hardly taste the difference from the all-beef to the pork.
1. You can order more toppings than you think.
Some stores might have phased out the onion and sauerkraut dispensers, but you can still ask for those toppings on your Costco hot dog while you're at the counter. They come free of charge, too.
How often do you visit your local Costco? The warehouse store might not make any money on your dollar dog, but it's certainly luring you in with the promise of a dirt-cheap lunch or family dinner that'll keep the kids satisfied while you browse.
This article was originally published on June 29, 2018.