Costco's popular, money-making food courts are preparing to enter post-pandemic life as the warehouse retailer looks to keep sales and profits hot this year.
"I'm pleased to report that our food courts are also coming back over the next few weeks in a bigger way. Last March, again in 2020 as the pandemic took hold, we pared back menu basically to hotdogs and pizza and soda and smoothies, and we eliminated all seating, those takeout only. We began several weeks ago adding back tables and seating and — at a handful of outdoor food courts in a few states," Costco CFO Richard Galanti told analysts on an earnings call Thursday evening.
Galanti explained Costco is bringing back popular menu items while also reconfiguring seating arrangements for diners.
"Over the past few months, we've also added back a few more food items, including bringing back a new and improved churros, which will be at all U.S. locations by the 4th of July, and adding a high-end soft ice cream to replace our frozen yogurt. And by June 7, we plan to have tables in seating back at most locations, but with more physical separation, tables of 4 instead of 6 and 8 and about half the seating capacity as we had before. Again, these are still subject to doing this in waves and see how it goes and subject to any additional state rules or restrictions in a few cases," Galanti said.
Free food samples — another long-time favorite of Costco shoppers — will also be returning soon at 170 stores, Galanti confirmed.
Even without its beloved food courts back to full operation, Costco crushed analyst estimates for the most recent quarter as shoppers continued stock up for work-for-home life amidst the pandemic. Worldwide customer store traffic rose an impressive 12.9%, and 11.9% in the U.S. alone. Costco's worldwide membership renewal rate remained relatively unchanged compared to last year at 88.4%.
Here is how Costco performed versus Wall Street estimates for its fiscal third quarter:
Net Sales: $45.3 billion vs. $43.5 billion
Same-Store Sales: +20.6% vs. +16%
Operating Profits: $1.66 billion vs. $1.41 billion
Diluted EPS: $2.75 vs. $2.33
Analysts stayed upbeat.
"Fiscal third quarter results reinforce our view that Costco is exiting COVID with a larger and higher quality member base that will support elevated compound returns for years to come," said Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink in a research note to clients.
Wissink reiterated a Buy rating on Costco with a $445 price target.
Brian Sozzi is an editor-at-large and anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow Sozzi on Twitter @BrianSozzi and on LinkedIn.
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