The Whopping Number Of Hot Dogs Costco Sells Surpasses All MLB Stadiums

Costco's hot dogs have been legendary in the food world for a long time, but what the company does only becomes more impressive once you realize the scale of the operation. Costco is famous for its bulk items and low prices, and while most of what gets sold in the store are retail and grocery items, the hot dog deal is so famous that it's actually become the first thing people point to when praising the chain's value. The hot dog combo at the Costco food court, which comes with a 20 ounce refillable soda, is only $1.50, an absolutely astonishing price that somehow hasn't changed since 1985. It is even the subject of a famous exchange in which the Costco co-founder and CEO Jim Sinegal threatened to kill a new executive who suggested raising the price of the combo. So people love this hot dog, and they love the deal, and they show it in just how many dogs Costco slings each year.

According to a Seattle Times report of Costco's virtual shareholder's meeting, the big box retailer says it sold just south of 200 million hot dog and soda combos in 2023, which is a big jump from the previous year's 156 million. To put that in perspective, WebstaurantStore says that baseball stadiums sell roughly 22 million hot dogs combined every year. That's right, Costco sold almost 10 times as many hot dogs as all 30 Major League Baseball teams.

Costco's hot dog combo is a flagship deal and a source of brand identity

Selling nearly 200 million hot dog combos doesn't just outpace the MLB; it makes Costco perhaps the top retailer of hot dogs in the country. The largest hot dog chain, Wienerschnitzel, reportedly sells 120 million hot dogs each year. However, even as the biggest store in its category, it operates in just 11 states. The only larger chain that heavily features hot dogs is Sonic, but with a focus on a big menu with burgers, chicken, and shakes, it's hard to tell how much of its business is dogs.

What's impressive about the Costco hot dog isn't just its price or sales, but that it has actually gotten larger over time. Costco's supplier used to be Hebrew National, but rising prices were becoming a problem if it wanted to maintain the famous deal, so Costco switched to making hot dogs itself under the Kirkland Signature brand. It kept the dogs 100% beef like before but upped their weight and length by 10%.

Strategies like that make it clear the hot dog is central to how Costco presents itself. It's a loss leader but also symbolizes the value that the brand wants to offer customers. The chain has raised the price of pizza and other food court items, but the hot dog is sacrosanct. Based on how much Costco shoppers are eating them up, it's a deal they care about just as much as the company.