15 Facts You Need To Know about the Costco Hot Dog

Costco Hot Dog Levitates

Carmen L./Yelp & Cheapism

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Costco Hot Dog Levitates
Carmen L./Yelp & Cheapism

Hot Diggity Dog!

Shoppers don't flock to Costco only for the deals on grocery and household items, but for the infamous food court Hot Dog Combo as well. The dog-and-drink combination is so popular and unmatched that it's become the symbol of the brand itself, representing quality and bang-for-your-buck value. Here's everything you need to know about Costco's iconic hot dog. (Not a Costco member? You can apply here.)

Costco food court
Shay M. / Yelp

1. It Debuted in 1984

Costco first opened its doors in 1983, and it only took about a year for the hot dog to make its debut. While the exact location is hard to pin down (some sources say Portland, some say San Diego), we do know that hot dogs were first sold at Costco from a food cart out front. Some locations still have an outdoor cafe, which seems like a little nod to its humble beginnings. 

Costco hotdog price
Steven H. / Yelp

2. The Price Has Never Changed

The most incredible thing about the Costco hot dog is that the price has never changed since 1985. It's still just $1.50, despite a recession, whatever Wall Street does, global pandemic, and crazy inflation. That's why it's such an iconic symbol of the retail chain: It's the one reliable constant after all these decades. 

Hot dog from Costco
Weird History Food/YouTube
Hebrew National Hot Dogs

4. ... But They Weren't Always

Before 2009, Costco used to get the hot dogs from two Kosher suppliers, including Hebrew National (even that original food cart was branded Hebrew National). When the chain decided to make the switch to its own dogs, lots of customers were dubious, since it was a well-known and popular brand. Clearly, once those people tasted the new hot dogs, they were hooked along with everyone else.

Costco hot dog
Costco hot dog by Willis Lam (CC BY-SA)

5. They Used to Be Smaller

One of the things that changed after the switch from Hebrew National was the size of the hot dog. While you'd assume that they got smaller — shrinkflation, of course — they actually got a little bigger when Costco started manufacturing them. They're now 10% heavier and longer than their predecessors. (The soda in the combo has also grown over the years. It used to be a 12-ounce can, but it's now 20 ounces.)

Costco buns
It's Binh (Been) Repaired & Everything Reviewed/YouTube

6. The Buns Aren't the Same Everywhere

While the hot dogs are all the same across the U.S., the buns are not. They're still sourced from suppliers, and there's at least a few because you'll see some areas have buns that are scored, have sesame seeds, or are without any kind of adornment.

Hot dog and soda combo
Adele P./Yelp

7. The Price Would Be Triple if It Kept Up With Inflation

If Costco raised its Hot Dog Combo price to match inflation (you know, like most companies do), the price would be $4.50 right now, according to CNN. While we much prefer the $1.50 price tag, less than $5 for a huge hot dog and a soda with free refills doesn't seem too bad either. 

Condiments Area for the Food Court At Costco, Four Pumps for Ketchup, Two Mustards Ones, and Relish, and Napkins

8. It's Better Than Sam's Club's Hot Dog

Our own taste test comparing Costco and Sam's Club's cafes revealed that the Costco hot dog just plain tastes better than their rival's. The only thing that Sam's does better than Costco when it comes to hot dogs is the price: it's $1.38 compared to $1.50. But we're not really complaining.

Costco cart
Mathew S./ Yelp

9. It's a Loss Leader

The intentional, ridiculously low price of the hot dog is a strategic decision by Costco. Like its rotisserie chickens, Costco doesn't make money on the hot dog itself, but it creates customer loyalty and gets people in the door, where they tend to take out their wallets and buy tons of bulk snacks or pre-made meals for dinner. Lots of people joke about how you can't get out of Costco without spending $200, and if you happen to grab a $1.50 hot dog on the way out, the company is pleased as punch.

Hot Dog with Sauerkraut and Mustard

10. You Can Ask For Toppings

Ketchup, mustard, and relish are standard hot dog toppings that are usually available at all locations. But there also used to be a self-serve dispenser next to them for chopped onions. During the pandemic, the chain removed the onion dispensers and stopped offering onions altogether. But onion lovers take note: All you have to do is ask at the food court counter, because onions are back in individual containers. Some locations also have sauerkraut too, but it's more rare.

Costco hot dog sign in Mexico
Dan F./ Yelp

11. They're Different Around the World

Costcos around the world have food courts, too, including Hot Dog Combos, but they're not the same everywhere. The price varies slightly, but they're usually priced around the equivalent of $1.50, give or take 50 cents or so. The hot dogs themselves are often pork products in other countries, instead of 100% beef like in the U.S., and can come with different toppings, like jalapeños  in Mexico. 

The French Chef Julia Child youtube still
Julia Child on PBS / YouTube

12. Julia Child Loved Them

Television cooking darling and French food expert Julia Child loved the Costco hot dog so much that she ate one every time she went shopping there. She loved them "as much as a fine French meal," according to the New York Times. It was one of the many unpretentious qualities of Child that made her so relatable and endearing to the American public. 

Yankee Stadium Hot Dog
Yankee Stadium Hot Dog by eric molina (CC BY)

13. It Outsells the Entire MLB

If there's anything more American than Costco that's also associated with hot dogs, it's baseball. Fans catching their local Major League Baseball team's games gobble up hot dogs while at the stadium (but they're a lot more expensive than $1.50, that's for sure). Yet despite the fact that MLB fans eat up 22 million hot dogs combined at all the major league stadiums each season, Costco outsells them all — by a lot. In its 2023 fiscal year, Costco sold almost 200 million Hot Dog Combos, almost 10 times more than the MLB. 

Costco food court
Carmen L./Yelp
Costco Food Court Kiosk Menu
Ron A./Yelp

15. The Price Isn't Going Up Anytime Soon

When confronted about the Hot Dog Combo's price, Costco's co-founder Jim Sinegal famously told the company's former CEO, "If you raise the effing hot dog, I will kill you."

With Sinegal retired and recent changes in Costco's upper management, many customers were worried that the price would finally go up. But Gary Millerchip, the company's new CFO and executive vice president, said earlier this year that the "$1.50 hot dog price is safe." Phew, at least that's one less thing we have to worry about. 

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