WASHINGTON — Costco said it plans to bring back its free samples after a 14-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The warehouse chain's Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said during an earnings call Thursday that the company is going to begin bringing back samples over the next few weeks through the end of June.
"As you all know, we eliminated our popular food sampling and demo activities in our warehouses last March at the onset of the pandemic," Galanti said. "I'm happy to report that over the next couple of weeks we will be beginning a phased return to full sampling."
Galanti said that the first wave of sampling returns will take place in 170 of its 550 Costco locations in the United States by the first week of June. He said sampling would return to every location in the U.S. by the end of June, depending on state and local COVID restrictions.
Increased safety protocols will still remain in place, according to Galanti. He said all samples will be prepared "behind plexiglass, prepared in smaller batches for better safety control and distributed to members one at a time."
Costco food courts will also be making a comeback in the next few weeks. By June 7, Galanti said most store locations would be bringing back seating, but with "more physical separation" with only tables of four and "about half the seating capacity as we had before."
New menu items will also be found at the food courts like "new and improved" churros by July 4. New ice cream will also be replacing its frozen yogurt this summer.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks in most outdoor and indoor settings, Costco lifted its mask mandate depending on state or local jurisdiction. However, it said face covering will still be required in some close contact situations in healthcare settings, including Pharmacy, Optical, Hearing Aid.
In June, Costco did start bringing back free samples at some of its stores, but also announced it will no longer sell half-sheet cakes at any location in the U.S. and there are currently "no immediate plans" to bring the cakes back.