One of the best parts of every visit to the warehouse mega-grocery chain Costco (COST) - Get Free Report is stopping by the little food counter on your way out the door. Customers will secure a spot in line as soon as they finish checkout, leaning against their carts packed full of bulk-package groceries and listening carefully for their ticket number to be called.
Costco's food offerings are known for one thing -- affordability. Some may even use the word "cheap", but the low ticket prices on foods like pizza, chicken sandwiches, and hot dogs actually cost the chain a good deal of money. Fortunately for Costco, the loss is worth it. Because low-priced food items draw customers to the store and incentivize those same customers to keep their memberships active.
The company has been very clear -- when it comes to its little restaurant, Costco will raise membership prices before it slashes prices on its beloved ready-made food. And that makes sense because it also has Walmart (WMT) - Get Free Report owned warehouse competitor Sam's Club to compete with.
Costco is okay with losing money making food that brings in more foot traffic. But the company isn't losing more money by worrying about the highest quality ingredients or most complex flavors. No one is going to Costco looking for a gourmet experience... are they?
Dave Chang is Not a Fan of the Costco Rotisserie Chicken
On this week's episode of the popular culinary podcast "The Dave Chang Show", the celebrity chef, along with his co-host food journalist and chef Chris Ying, get down to the bones of the Costco Rotisserie Chicken phenomenon. The two pals talk about shopping trips to Costco, and the convenience of big warehouse stores when cooking for a family.
But according to Chang, the gigantic grocery hub's chicken didn't meet his expectations.
“I think the Costco chicken is the worst rotisserie chicken,” said the owner of the beloved Momofuku restaurant. The problem, he says, is the lack of seasoning. Oftentimes, leftover chicken ends up in the refrigerator to be eaten cold the next day. Without any seasoning, Chang says, the Costco chicken is less-than-delicious after day one. Ying also says that, in his opinion, the chickens are under-roasted.
Chang is Right, But He May Be Missing the Point
Chang's outlook could be explained away by customers' ability to manage their own expectations. For the low price point of $4.99 per chicken, consumers certainly seem happy to trade taste for a few extra dollars in their pockets. The lack of seasoning, while a valid criticism of the food item, doesn't seem to stop chickens from flying over the counter from store open to store close.
Part of Costco's restaurant charm is the school cafeteria experience. Where else can you find a slice of pizza that's probably the exact same recipe as the pizza you ate at lunchtime in public school? None of Costco's menu items are going to be winning any James Beard Awards anytime soon. But for customers looking for a hot, ready-made food option to feed a large family, Costco's cheap chicken deal is still a steal.
For the record, Chang says that the best-tasting grocery store rotisserie chicken comes from another store shoppers are likely to find in their town. If you're prioritizing taste over price, Chang recommends getting your birds from Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM) - Get Free Report for $6.99.