From Carts to Cafés

Celebrating You

Get a taste of Sam’s Club Café’s delicious history.

Where can you get a hot dog and a fountain drink (with free refills) for just $1.38? Sam’s Club Café, of course! But that’s only the first bite of this tasty tale.

We were hungry to learn more about the history of Sam’s eateries, so we turned to Danaielle Trammell. As a Sam’s Club Café senior merchant, Danaielle oversees purchasing and product decisions for the cafés. Who better to whet our appetite?

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Hot diggity dog!
Back in the day, Danaielle explains, humble hot dog carts gave members the chance to buy a dog and wash it down with a can of soda (or “pop,” depending on your hometown).

The carts proved so popular that by the early 1990s, clubs started creating space for cafés with seating and food service. Today, the cafés at Sam’s Clubs across the country have quite the following. Every week, they sell 1.5 million drinks, 641,000 hot dogs and 250,000 slices of pizza to hungry shoppers.

When less is more
When they first opened, the cafés offered more options than you see today. Eventually, the menu was pared down to the most popular items. “We've kind of found our lane. We're not going to have a big assortment of items, but what we do have is going to be the best quality at a retail price you definitely couldn’t find anywhere else,” Danaielle explains. “So that's our promise to the members.”

Danaielle, who started as a Walmart cashier 20 years ago, says her personal favorite menu item is the cinnamon sugar pretzel. Made with sweet pretzel dough, the soft pretzel is brushed with melted butter and then sprinkled with (you guessed it) cinnamon and sugar.

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Taste test
Items like the ever-popular hot dogs and pizza slices are on the menu to stay. But Danaielle says they try to introduce two to four new items each year. If these test items become popular enough, they’ll transition to being permanent.

Take the delicious brownie sundae for example: a heavenly combination of rich chocolate brownies, creamy frozen yogurt and sweet caramel sauce. (We’ll take two, please!) This sweet snack started as a temporary holiday item but was so well-liked, it took its place on the menu year-round.

But that doesn’t hold true for every seasonal item, so be sure not to sleep on the birthday cake sundae offered in April 2023. In honor of Sam’s Club’s 40th anniversary, this sweet treat’s available for a limited time only.

A smart cookie
Café menu items typically incorporate products sold in the club. The birthday cake sundae uses cakes made in our bakery, for instance. And the hot dogs that started it all? They’re also available in the grocery aisles for club members to take home for weekend barbecues.

“We like to take items from other areas in the club, as a way to get more members to try them,” Danaielle shares.

She admits being a competitive person. But it’s exactly that spirit that drives Danaielle to deliver on deliciousness. She visits other chain’s food courts to sample their offerings and make sure Sam’s Club is keeping up on price and quality.

“I want to know what their ice cream tastes like. I want to know what their buns taste like,” she says with a smile. “If it's something that's beating mine, then I want to figure out why I think it's better,” Danaielle says.

Onwards and upwards
In 2020, the cafés faced one of their biggest challenges, not from a competitor, but from COVID-19. During the pandemic, the cafés shut down completely for six months. Gradually, they reopened first for to-go orders and then with limited seating. By the end of summer 2022, the cafés had rebounded.

Danaielle is also focused on moving the cafés into the future. Menu boards are now digital. Members can order online instead of waiting in line, with the addition of the café to Sam’s Club’s Scan & Go shopping app. And that’s not the end of the story. We continue to look for areas to improve using member surveys.

She loves her job, but Danaielle isn’t one to sit on the sidelines. She’s someone who learns by doing. “I enjoy that I still get to work so much with the operators,” she says. “I get emails from them all the time, I get to travel all the time. And when I go to a club and I'm looking at the café, I just put on an apron, a hairnet and gloves and work. That's how I learned the most, is I put myself in the associates’ shoes.”

“No one can really be that upset if you're making pizza and hot dogs and pretzels and frozen yogurt,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s just fun that I get to do that.”