Soaring food costs, driven by staggering inflation rates, have reached a bargain bastion many thought was invincible to price hikes: the Costco food court.
Starting this week, Costco’s chicken bake costs $3.99, a $1 increase, and the 20-ounce soft drink costs 59 cents, up 10 cents, The Times confirmed at multiple store locations throughout Los Angeles County.
“I was surprised, ’cause they never do increases on the items,” said Georgina Gomez, a food service worker at a Costco on Los Feliz Boulevard who has worked at the mega retail chain for 25 years. “Once they’re out, that’s usually the price they keep.”
The price increases are part of a national update, Business Insider reported.
Grocery store prices have gone up by more than 10% in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim region over the last year. Costco is no exception, with cost increases on items including Kirkland brand croissants, muffins, Wagyu New York steaks and water bottles.
Gomez said she has yet to hear feedback from customers on the new prices for a soft drink and the chicken bake, a cheese-crusted bread loaf stuffed with chicken breast, bacon and Caesar dressing.
Most customers, she said, have deferred to the more popular food court items: the $1.99 pizza slice and the famous $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda combo, which remain untouched by inflation. Last year, Costco sold 122 million of the combos.
This year, debunked rumors circulated that the price of the hot-dog combo, which has remained constant since 1985, would increase by $1. The chain has gone as far as switching from Hebrew National dogs and building its own hot-dog manufacturing facilities to keep the price low, according to a MarketWatch report.
The store’s founder, James Sinegal, once vehemently defended the price, telling current Chief Executive Craig Jelinek, “I will kill you,” if Jelinek raised the figure, 425Business reported in 2018.
Despite the recent price increase to some items at the Costco food court, Gomez noted, it remains more affordable than most other eateries.
Even so, U.S. consumers continue to be hit with what the Labor Department said last month was an 8.6% increase in prices, a 40-year high.
Shoppers have cut their grocery budgets, low-wage workers have poured their paychecks into high gas costs for their commutes, and small businesses, including taquero street vendors, have dealt with the rising costs of meat by increasing prices.