Costco Sampling Buffet Ending?
Back in my Redmond and Seattle days, there was a Costco in nearby Kirkland. In fact, it might be one of the first original Costco’s, hence the Kirkland brand.
Yes, sometimes it was important to load up on 500 garbage bag boxes and enough handsoap refills to last 3 years. But between weekly trips, I could always quickly deplete the huge bags of hershey’s assortment mini’s (Special Dark and Mr. Goodbar). Fun times for sure.
But the samples runs were always a highlight. Yes, you can always splurge the $3 for a slice of supreme pizza or a plate of chicken bake. But all the more fun to make the rounds – free spanakopita, chicken nuggets, mini pizza bagels, and more could be had in the frozen section.
Turn the corner for some trail mix, fresh imitation sushi rolls, and some cold cuts. By now you’ll need a beverage – probably Nantucket Nectar or some local organic juice blend will quench your thirst. If you are lucky, round it out with rice pudding or other dessert options. You might have to double back to frozen, in case they have the mochi samples.
And if that wasn’t enough calories, you can repeat it for lap 2 and 3. Ahh, that was prior to the calorie counting and weight loss days.
End Of An Era?
Unfortunately, they are suspending the samples citing virus concerns. I wonder what conversion rates they need to break even on the samples. If a box of bagel bites has 50 minis (remember this is Costco), then all they need is 1 in 100 people to buy one and they are probably ahead (assuming 50% gross margin). In fact, it’s better than that – you just need 1 in 300 people who would have shopped elsewhere to walk into the store, knowing the buffet awaits.
Sadly, there is the labor, and the real estate used up, and some adverse effect of constant freeloaders (plus cannibalization on the chicken bake sales). Still, you don’t need much of a conversion rate to come out ahead. What a great model – I hope others follow once the virus all clear is in place!