Costco execs were probably never so glad to see National Hot Dog Day end on Wednesday.
Costco recently took on hot dog lovers by ditching its Polish hot dog in the food court. At first glance, kicking the Polish dog off the menu seemed harmless enough. Costco still sells a regular hot dog and soda for $1.50, one of its best sellers. Aren't a hot dog and a Polish dog virtually two peas in the same pod of beef parts?
What really cooked Costco's goose of good intentions is replacing the Polish dog with healthier fare such as an al pastor salad with meatless soy topping and an acai dessert bowl, both $4.99 each. Costco's chief executive Craig Jelinek remarked at a shareholder meeting that he had tried the meatless salad, but his response seemed lukewarm. "It tastes pretty good, if you like those kind of things. I tried it once," he said.
Costco also recently added an option at select stores that would seem to please both the politically correct and incorrect--a cheeseburger made with all organic ingredients (6 oz of beef) and a diet-busting number of calories (1,030) for $4.99. It's being tested in St. Louis Park where it debuted about a month ago.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2010 Dietary Guidelines, meals should contain 650 to 700 calories for a woman or 800 to 850 calories for a man.
Why are Minnesotans for the most part immune to this controversy? Costco food courts in Minnesota haven't sold the Polish hot dog for quite some time, said one Costco store manager. All sell the hugely popular one-quarter pound all- beef hot dog and 20 oz. soda, which Costco has no plans to drop. Nearly all Minnesota locations also sell a bratwurst and soda, except the St. Louis Park food court, which recently dropped the brat for the organic cheeseburger.
Jelinek reported to the Seattle Times that comments about the food menu are popular in the suggestion boxes and may be the reason healthier fare was added. A different set of suggestion box stuffers may be able to bring back the Polish hot dog.
Sam's Club, which has long played a distant second fiddle to Costco's much higher sales per square foot, has tried to work the food court controversy to its advantage. It recently resurrected the Polish dog or kielbasa in its food courts nationwide, although many were already carrying it. Sam's Club tweeted recently that it will lower the price of its Polish dog to 99 cents starting Monday, July 23. It's also stressing that nonmembers can make purchases at the food court too.
Sam's doubled down by doing another of its Groupon specials--a one year Sam's Club membership for $35 with a free $10 egift card.
Costco members can take comfort in knowing that it still sells Polish hot dogs, but they have to find them in the meat department, not the food court.