Costco food court raises prices on chicken bake, drinks amid inflation

Soaring food costs, driven by staggering inflation rates, have reached a bargain bastion many thought was invincible against price hikes: Costco’s food court.

As of this week, Costco’s chicken casserole is $3.99, up $1, and the 20-ounce soft drink is 59 cents, up 10 cents, according to The Times at multiple Los Angeles County locations confirmed.

“I was surprised because they never increase the items,” said Georgina Gomez, a food service clerk at 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 hikes are part of a national update, Business Insider reported.

Grocery prices have increased more than 10% in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim area over the past year. Costco is no exception, with price hikes on items like croissants, muffins, Wagyu New York steaks, and Kirkland-branded water bottles.

Gomez said she hasn’t yet had any feedback from customers on the new prices for a soft drink and the chicken casserole, a cheese-crusted loaf filled with chicken breast, bacon and Caesar dressing.

Most customers, she said, have shifted to the more popular food-court items: the $1.99 slice of pizza and the famous $1.50 hot dog and soda combo, which are unaffected by inflation. Last year, Costco sold 122 million combos.

That year, debunked rumors circulated that the price of the hot dog combo, which had remained constant since 1985, would increase by $1. According to a MarketWatch report, the chain has gone so far as to switch from having Hebrew national dogs and building its own hot dog manufacturing facilities to keep the price down.

The store’s founder, James Sinegal, once vehemently defended the award, telling current CEO Craig Jelinek, “I’ll kill you” if Jelinek increases the number, 425Business reported in 2018.

Despite the recent price hike on some items at the Costco Food Court, Gomez noted, it remains more affordable than most other restaurants.

Even so, US consumers continue to be hit by an 8.6% price increase, a 40-year high, the Labor Department said last month.

Shoppers have slashed their grocery budgets, low-wage workers have dumped their paychecks into high gas commute costs, and small businesses, including taquero street vendors, have coped with rising meat costs by raising prices. Costco food court raises prices on chicken bake, drinks amid inflation

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