Food Rocket, a rapid grocery delivery service backed by c-store chain Circle K (Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. ACT), has rolled out its first four in-house hot-meal kitchens, in Chicago. By doing so, Food Rocket has created “a new segment of super-delivery apps with an improved business model,” according to the company, which has invested more than $1 million in the endeavor. Its expanded portfolio will enable the startup to deliver a wider range of products within the same consumer’s order, bolstering its market penetration.
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Since the first hot-meal kitchen opened this past June, weekly sales growth numbers have reached 35% and hot meal penetration has reached 20%, Food Rocket said. A majority of the company’s orders include hot food and beverage items, and the kitchens are currently generating more than 10% of sales. This is part of the brand’s long-term strategy to boost operating profits and margins by adding such new products and services as automated ordering, artificial intelligence-enhanced warehouses, and portfolio enlargement.
“We plan to open 200 hot meal kitchens by the end of 2023,” said Vitaly Alexandrov, CEO and founder of Chicago-based Food Rocket. “In the future, we anticipate fast delivery across all food segments. With quick commerce, we can provide our customers with a basic assortment of hot meals in record time. Today, 20% of all orders include at least one item from the hot kitchens. It’s important to note that most current players aren’t yet ready to deliver freshly cooked food that is restaurant-quality, and, if they can, it’s often unclear how fast they can deliver it. This leads to a negative customer experience, so there is a place in the market for a business that can resolve all of these problems.”
There are cooking lines in each kitchen, including a high-speed oven, a professional coffee machine and a steam oven. A team of two chefs creates restaurant-quality meals, with an emphasis on healthy dishes. In the grocery market, Food Rocket is the first startup to offer hot meals and groceries simultaneously.
The current menu consists of espresso-based hot drinks, pizzas, cold drinks, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and various hot snacks. The kitchens also bake pastries and biscuits with fresh ingredients daily, and all menu items range from $1.49 to $10.95 in price. Meals are delivered within 10-plus minutes as grocery orders. Menu items come from foodservice suppliers like Gordon, Midwest, Good to Go and Sysco, and are prepared on-demand by specially trained Food Rocket team members.
Alimentation Couche-Tard is a global leader in convenience and fuel retail, and operates in 26 countries and territories. The Laval, Quebec-based company, home to Couche-Tard and Circle K banners and has more than 14,100 stores, is No. 18 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.