The large hot dog is being phased out, but at what cost?
Costco’s food court has long served a basic, roller-skating rink snack bar-like menu that features staples like dogs, pizza, and ice cream. Customers have appreciated the convenience and the quality for the price, turning the food court in a bit of a cult favorite. Last year alone, Costco sold 137 million of its beloved $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda deals. Gourmet, no; crowd-pleasing, yes.
But now Costco wants to elevate its offerings. It’s a choice leaving a lot of diners at “the food court that cheap hot dogs built” upset—especially now that one of those dogs is being taken off the menu.
“Not everybody gets as excited about pizza and hot dogs as I do,” CEO Craig Jelinek said during a shareholder meeting back in January, according to the Seattle Times. He was speaking to some new items that were already being tested at different stores: an “Al Pastor Salad” that’s actually vegetarian thanks to a soy-protein meat-substitute, organic burgers, and an açai fruit bowl. The idea is to appeal to new and more health-conscious customers.
Adding new items is one thing; dropping existing staples is another. And some food court regulars have apparently snapped after reports have revealed that the Polish hot dog—a thicker, kielbasa alternative to the smaller $1.50 dog—is being taken off the menu to make room for these new items. Costco’s CFO Richard Galanti confirmed to the Seattle Times that, yes, it was being discontinued, though customers could still buy it in bulk and make it themselves. And more importantly, he emphasized, “The all-beef hot dog remains.” That menu staple has been around since 1985 and has never changed price.
Yet, the survival of the $1.50 dog doesn’t appear to be much of a consolation to many Costco diehards. Someone launched a Change.org petition to keep the Polish dog around while others have pushed a #SaveThePolishDog hashtag on Twitter. One user on the social media site even equated the demise of the Polish dog as the end of her youth. “My entire childhood is eating a polish hot dog after shopping at Costco,” the user, Olivia, lamented.
Making matters even stranger, apparently even Jelinek, the CEO who runs the whole company, isn’t convinced about the menu changes. “This new plant-based protein salad, I know that excites you,” he said in that previously mentioned talk with shareholders. “But it is healthy. And, uh, actually, it tastes pretty good, if you like those kind of things. I tried it once.”
Not a very ringing endorsement. So maybe there’s hope for the Polish dog after all? What do a bunch of steak-loving Wall Street-types know about a good kielbasa anyway?