Oh, the grateful tick-tock of the clock to let us know lunchtime is officially upon us. Should we head to a salad bar? Perhaps we should eat our stale sandwich from home? However, there is still that nagging feeling in the back of our minds that what we’re really craving is the $1.50 hot dog meal deal from Costco. That delicious hot dog wiener wrapped in a plump bread bun; maybe even some onions and mustard thrown in for good measure. Who could resist the call of the hot dog? Plus the speed and convenience of ordering fast food for lunch saves time, energy, and cleaning up, so it’s a win-win situation. While chomping down on our newly purchased meal, it can leave a lot of time to wonder about the secrets behind this fast food staple. Where did the meal come from? Perhaps there are hidden ingredients in one of our favorite lunches that will leave us thinking twice before ordering next time?
Back in 1983, the first Costco store opened its doors. Just one decade later, the company merged with Price Club to create a brand new store where customers could shop through the warehouse to bulk by nearly any kind of item on the market. Since then the business has grown to become the second-largest retailer in the entire world, just missing out on the top spot to their rivals, Walmart. What started out as a simple grocery store has expanded into something much greater. The company doesn’t rely on advertising to bring in the customers. Instead, it uses their ״treasure hunt״ idea of lowering the price of seasonal or favorite items to turn shopping in the store into a game. The bargains have kept people going back for years.
When it comes to the food market, Costco is slowly making its way into the top spots. While people may not immediately think of the store when it comes to grabbing a slice of pizza, they have grown to become one of the biggest pizza sellers in America. On top of this, they are the largest importer of luxury French wines. It seems as though Costco has had plenty of practice over the years when it comes to dominating the world of food. That is why every year, millions of people flock to the stores in search of the beloved $1.50 meal. The price and taste leave people always wanting more, but there is more to this hot dog than meets the eye.
The famous meal deal
For anyone craving a hot dog at a reasonable price, Costco is the place to go. Their $1.50 meal deal with a hot dog and drink has kept people fed for years. While the deal has been around for as long as we can remember, it hasn’t usually crossed our minds as to the story behind the origins of this meal. For years we have wolfed down a hot dog, but now it is time to look at the stories we’ve never heard about this famous food.
Birth of the hot dog
Back in the early days, Costco started its life as a hot dog cart. It is no wonder they have perfected their recipe and selling tactics so well over the years as the company has had decades of practice. In 1984 their hot dog supplier, Hebrew National, gave the company a hot dog cart to see how the sales faired. The cart was set up outside a warehouse in San Diego where people flocked to get their hot dog fill.
Back in 1985, the price of their now famous hot dog was set at $1.50. Surprisingly, since then the price has remained unchanged! Although people often complain about the rising costs of food, they won’t leave empty-handed here. Costco is well aware of their price, too. The company has stated they believe the hot dog meal helps bring value to members of their own team, and they’re proud of their bargain menu item.
A staggering sales figure
We hope you’re sitting down for this. Each year Costco manages to rack up an incredible number of sales, but the figure is staggering. Each year over 100 million hot dogs make their way over the counter to satisfied customers. In 2015 the number reached a record high when figures hit 128 million hot dogs. Data shows that Costco alone managed to sell four times the amount of hot dogs per year than every major league baseball stadium put together – that’s a lot of hot dogs.
Growing the meal
Even though food will stay the same price, or even go up, food tends to get smaller as the years go by. However, this isn’t the case for our favorite meal. In fact, the soda has increased from a 12-ounce can to a 20-ounce drink that comes with free refills. The hot dog has also grown as we used to chow down on a quarter pound hot dog which has become 10% longer and bigger. We now get more for our money than ever before.
One of the downfalls to a Costco hot dog is the soggy buns. Although you sometimes get lucky with a firmer meal, it seems to be the luck of the draw as to whether you will finish your hot dog, bun intact. However, there is a reason behind this mushy mess. Costco steams their buns and hot dogs. This means that when they are wrapped up to be served the moisture gets trapped inside. If you want to avoid a soggy bun situation, it is best to eat them right away.
Making a switch
Up until 2009, Costco was serving kosher hot dogs from their supplier, Hebrew National. However, after an issue with the supplier the company was forced to find another way to get the hot dogs out the door. In walked a new company, Kirkland. The business had developed the larger all-beef hot dog that we have all come to know and love – which made the decision for Costco relatively easy. Switching out suppliers may have angered people at the time, but it has since seen the popularity of the company grow even more.
Outdoing the competition
It isn’t just their sales that see Costco hot dogs come out on top. When checking the ingredients list, there is a surprising lack of artificial flavors or ingredients compared to other hot dogs on the market. Burger King’s rival flame-grilled dog weighs 123 grams compared to Costco’s 113 grams. However, Costco’s dogs have 15 grams less fat as well as six calories less than the competitors. To top it all off, Burger King charges $2 for their menu item without a drink.
While we have all grown to know and love the taste of the Costco 100% beef hot dog, if you were to head over to Japan you would be in for a bit of a shock. In Japan, Costco has opted for all-pork hot dogs instead. Bloggers have theorized that the beef taste didn’t sit well with their customers, so they decided to change it up. Another blogger went on to add that the Japanese version of the famous hot dog tastes just as any other would from America.
If you’ve placed your order only to suddenly realize there is a distinct lack of self-serving sauerkraut and onions then have no fear – you won’t be eating a bland hot dog. When placing your order, you can simply ask for the sides to be added to your meal. The best bit? They are both completely free of charge! After growing the size of their hot dogs, millions would be left devastated to hear they could no longer have the sides we have grown to know and love.
While the hot dogs sell in their millions, they never make a profit on their famous meal deal. Costco is aware they aren’t making money every time they hand out a hot dog, but they have a plan. The store lures customers in with the promise of a cheap lunch before tempting them further with their incredible deals on food or electronics. With their double whammy approach, Costco has keeping the customer happy down to an art.