Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop





Costco and Business Lunches

Posted 24 August, 2008 at 11:24pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Life)

Last Wednesday, I swung by Costco to return a defective LCD monitor. After buying another monitor (to replace the one returned), I decided to eat lunch there (how can you turn down a Polish sausage with 20 oz. soda for $1.50?). The dining experience was fairly typical of any Costco lunch (except for the fact that this particular Costco's dining/picnic area was inside the building). You collect your food, load it up with the condiments that you like (it's deli mustard, ketchup, a little relish, onions, and just a bit of crushed red pepper for some extra kick), sit on a plastic picnic bench, and eat next to a bunch of random people.

It's hard in these conditions not to overhear conversations or notice badges (most companies in the San Francisco Bay Area have their employees wear badges for security - but this also means that when they are not in their company, you pretty much see each person's name and company). Usually, I'd think nothing of it, but since Tina and I have made our decision to leave the Bay Area in the next couple years, I've been paying a little more attention to some of things that might not happen in other areas of the country. While eating my sausage, I noticed several conversations ranging from an in-depth explanation of potential next generation network security technology that could be picked up by Cisco, the latest hiccup involving some South Korean game animation company and some new Electronic Art's video game, and a harsh critique of both Intel and AMD (which I internally disagreed with). A glance around revealed a mix of people - mothers with three kids, a Hispanic woman telling two Asian kids not to make a mess and eat slower, the older gentleman next to me reading a book he just bought while eating his pizza, and the rest (about 14 or so men) were employees of local high tech companies ranging from those with names that I recognized to ones that I did not. 10 years ago, when I started working in Silicon Valley, this was the scene at Tung Kee Noodle House (an extremely low cost chain of Vietnamese noodle shops that have since split up and broken into various noodle companies). Tung Kee was a place where you could get a bowl of noodle soup for about $3 (a little more now), see other people in the tech industry dining next to you and listen to random conversations about the direction of semiconductors, the hottest stock performers, and even job interviews. Maybe Costco is the new cheap business lunch spot.

What I want to know is what a Costco lunch is like in your city?

5 comments to Costco and Business Lunches

michelle, August 27th, 2008 at 6:50 pm:

  • We are a multigenerational costco family, we often run into my inlaws there without planning! We live in south lake tahoe, ca but our closest costco is carson city, nevada…..from our experience in costcos in other cities while on vacation or travel for work, it seems our carson city costco does not consider families with young children as their biggest market, as evidenced by the lack of dreft, whole organic milk and childrens shoes…..there is a large retirement age skew in the census. That said, when I am in this costco during the lunch hour often, I see many moms or cargegivers with kids splitting a pizza amongst the primarily under 10 year olds, granted summer break and day care field trips might be the cause…..anyway, our overheard lunch conversations range from seniors discussing the latest vitamin supplement deals available at costco, how expensive gas is, how expensive fruit is, and then amongst the child filled tables, discussions of the latest video games or how high they slid down at the waterpark, our costco has done away with my favorite summer treat, the hand dipped ice cream bar, we miss it! our hot dog/soda combo is the most often lunch for us, myself and toddler son! When I see my retired in-laws they seem to opt for the pizza slice or chicken wrap! Our costco has an indoor dining area alongside the membership counter, but we also get snow from october to may so they have weather to allow for! the seating area is always full, even when we are there early on a weekday!

Michael Chu, August 27th, 2008 at 9:31 pm:

  • Thanks really interesting. I don't usually get the ice cream bar, but I'd be upset if they got rid of it (it's such a good deal - I'd be kicking myself for not getting it while I could!). I can never seem to finish the chicken wrap - something with the dough and the Caesar dressing sauce and cheese makes me lose my appetite once I eat about 75% of it, then the next couple bites are a challenge and finally I just have a few more bites and I can't do it.

    It's funny, where I live it's usually the late teenagers, twenty somethings, a few like me who are early thirties talking about the latest video games. :)

michelle, August 28th, 2008 at 9:26 am:

  • I agree about the chicken wrap, I have never had more than one bite, and have ordered it once or twice, it is just gushy, strong and makes my stomach churn, but I tried the new turkey rollup sandwich thing, and that was super gross to me too, very "wet" and slimy and not all cold or all warm, just had a bite and tossed it, hate to waste food, but i was driving and did not want to get sick in the car, i miss the pretzels they used to have too, but that was ages ago! When we were in Reston, VA their snack bar(Inside the Store with a very small seating area outside) had some pulled pork sandwich thing and smelled good, but we did not get any snacks, the reno, nv costco has the outside snack bar and seating but it is under a covering that is concrete with one side open to the parking lot…ps I love your recipe site the grid/flowchart thing for the recipe at the bottom is total logic to me! While I am not an engineer and have forgotten more than I can remember from college, cooking to me is like a chemistry experiment, with the variables like humidity out of your control, ps living here at over 6000 ft above sea level is a real challenge to baking and lots of "normal" cooking, that boiling point issue never goes away! Have a great day! :)

Kell, September 20th, 2008 at 7:23 pm:

  • I have fond memories of eating Costco pizzas in Billings, MT when my uncle would come to town. The snack area was indoors with red picnic table and attached benches, and as you leave there are those big heter blowers on the ceiling. You hit that and remember "oh yeah, it's really cold outside." The food was good, the prices right, and the company–remembering still warms my heart.

Michael Chu, September 20th, 2008 at 7:54 pm:

  • I was having lunch at Costco again (after dropping off my car for a tire change) and they don't seem to have those chocolate dipped ice cream bars anymore. I've only had it once and now I wish I could have them again…