Have you ever heard of a Costco Business Center? It's like Costco — only different. Although you don't need a special membership to shop at one — just a regular Costco card will do! — these specialty stores have a more restaurant-geared focus and carry a different line of merchandise than their regular warehouse stores.
I recently checked out one of Costco's newest business centers in south San Francisco, and happily noticed one thing super quickly: There were no lines in sight. In fact, there seemed to be as many people working there as there were shopping on a weekday afternoon!
Here's what else you need to know about Costco Business Centers and what sorts of things I found worth buying there, even though I'm shopping for my small family and not a business or restaurant.
How Is a Costco Business Center Different from a Regular Costco?
Before your rush off to a Costco Business Center in search of rotisserie chicken and wine, here's how a business Costco is different from a regular Costco. Geared toward restaurants and small businesses, these Costcos don't carry clothes, books, toys, most seasonal items, and other small household items. Imagine removing a third of a regular store and then replacing it with restaurant equipment, more snacks, more drinks, and a huge walk-in refrigerator so cold they provide you with orange jackets to wear inside!
Some popular services are also limited at business Costcos. Mine has a food court and some have gas stations, but most don't have pharmacy, photo, alcohol, optical, or tire departments. There are also no delis, so don't expect to pick up a $5 rotisserie chicken or order a sheet cake for your next party.
Most of the food packages aren't practical for regular households — unless you need a 10-pound bag of chopped onions, 50-pound box of potatoes, or a whole side of lamb. However, there are some foods there that are exactly the same as a regular Costco, and for the same price.
Operating hours tend to start and end early. Mine opens as early as 7 a.m., which I actually love because the 10 a.m. start time at the regular warehouse store is always a bit inconvenient if I want to get there right after dropping my daughter off at school.
5 Things Worth Getting at a Costco Business Center
After wandering up and down each and every aisle at my Costco Business Center, I came up with this list of things that can't usually be found at regular Costco and were worth picking up for my small household.
1. Kitchen equipment
Similar to a restaurant supply store, this is a great place to stock up on kitchen towels, sturdy baking sheets, cutting boards, frying pans, tongs, mixing bowls, and even chef's knives. Everything is designed to be basic but durable, able to withstand the rigors of restaurant cooking but at bare-bones prices.
2. Snacks and drinks
I already thought Costco carried a large selection of snacks and drinks, but the selection at business Costco blew me away! Anything you can imagine being in a vending machine can probably be found here. There are even tons of very specific variety snack packs, including Flaming Hot Cheetos or tiny cans of Pringles, making this a great place when you are stocking up for parties, fundraisers, or goodie bags.
As for drinks, I gasped in happiness when I saw towers of my beloved LaCroix cans. This is the spot where corner neighborhood stores load up so that they can carry such an extensive variety of sodas, juices, specialty waters, and energy drinks. There's even a wall full of Italian syrups and other coffee bar essentials, should you find yourself wanting to play barista.
3. Food storage containers
If your pantry or refrigerator needs a better storage system, come here to stock up and organize. Not only do they carry Cambro tubs (plastic containers restaurants use for food storage) in all sizes, but there are squeeze bottles for storing salad dressing or oil, and sleeves of the plastic quart containers we love.
4. Disposable serveware and takeout containers
As we head into the holiday season with potlucks, parties, and gatherings cluttering the calendar, note that Costco Business Centers have some great-looking disposable serveware and platters that are a step up from what you'd find at the grocery store. They're a great option when you're bringing a dish over to someone else's house and want it to look nice on the table, but don't want to worry about cleaning and bring it home.
It's also worth picking up some takeout containers so that friends and family can happily bring Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner leftovers home without having to dip into your beloved stash of Tupperware.
After a breeze of a checkout (no lines, so friendly!), I walked past two big freezer cases of ice. The ice came both in large bags and in bags filled with individual smaller bags. You might not think ice is that big of a deal, but when preparing for a party or camping, I've sometimes had to run to a few places to get enough to fill coolers because the local stores run out. Given the fact that it's so easy and fast to dash into a Costco Business Center, ice is something I'd definitely pick up there, especially if I also need a variety of single-serve drinks.
I'd love to hear from you guys — have you ever been to a Costco Business Center? If so, what do you recommend buying?