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Kroger Embraces Ghost Kitchens

Kroger Embraces Ghost Kitchens
ClusterTruck's dark kitchens are powered by a proprietary software system that uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations.

The Kroger Co. is launching two on-premise ghost kitchens via the food retailer’s partnership with ClusterTruck.

The service, which provides freshly prepared meals on-demand to consumers, is set for two more stores in the Indianapolis, Indiana, and Columbus, Ohio, areas via the launch of on-premise ClusterTruck kitchens. More specifically, Kroger’s first on-premise kitchen is now open in Fishers, Ind. (9799 East 116th Street). Later this year, a second location will open in Dublin, Ohio (7625 Sawmill Road).

Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck launched initially in late 2019 in Carmel, Ind., as well as in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

Kroger says the new launches, however, are different from those off-premise concepts.

The new kitchens will re-purpose approximately 1,000 square feet at each participating store to create a culinary space for ClusterTruck staff to prepare meals for quick delivery and in-store pickup.  Customers can order from a menu of more than 80 meals, spanning a variety of ingredients – and best characterized as food quality you can get at a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food.

“Kroger remains focused on providing our customers with fresh food and experiences enabled by industry-leading insights and transformative technology,” said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh merchandising. “The new on-premise kitchen, in partnership with ClusterTruck, is an innovation that streamlines ordering, preparation and delivery, supporting Kroger as we meet the sustained customer demand for quick, fresh restaurant-quality meals, especially as we navigate an unprecedented health crisis that has affected every aspect of our lives, including mealtime.”

The expansion of Kroger’s relationship with ClusterTruck reflects the retailer’s ongoing investments in providing a variety of prepared fresh food options and creating a seamless experience for customers. Kroger experienced a 127% digital sales lift in second quarter 2020, as customers continued to use digital ordering options, including pickup, delivery, and ship to home.

"On-demand ordering has shown demonstrable traction with customers and will only continue growing in popularity," said a Kroger spokesperson.

The food retailer in 2018 bought meal-kit provider Home Chef but the spokesperson said the partnership with ClusterTruck will not eat into that business. "Meal kits allow customers who want to cook, experiment with recipes, and spend time in the kitchen an easier and more convenient way to do so — while our on-premise kitchen concept with ClusterTruck meets the needs of customers who want delicious, restaurant quality meals delivered right to their door in a matter of minutes," the spokesperson said. 

ClusterTruck was co-founded in 2015 and launched its first kitchen in 2016. The Indianapolis-based company owns and operates vertically integrated delivery-only kitchens. ClusterTruck's dark kitchens are powered by a proprietary software system that uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations. This systematic approach to meal delivery ensures that nearly every order is in the hands of the customer within seven minutes of the meal's preparation. The average time between placing an order and a customer receiving their food is less than 30 minutes.

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America

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