Kroger

Kroger launches ghost kitchen delivery in Midwest

America’s largest grocery retailer is getting in on the food delivery wars.

Kroger announced Thursday it will roll out two ghost kitchens at grocery stores in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, in partnership with ClusterTruck, a tech start-up that operates delivery-only restaurants.

Kroger launches on-premise ghost kitchens in partnership with Midwest start-up ClusterTruck. The first location opens today in Fishers, Indiana. (Kroger). 

The supermarket chain said the ghost kitchens — cooking spaces that serve food on a pick-up or delivery-only basis — will cook up a variety of freshly prepared meals on-demand with no service or delivery fees to cater to the ongoing need for food delivery during the pandemic.

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Kroger piloted a ghost kitchen with ClusterTruck in 2019 before the pandemic. However, with dining rooms shut down during the COVID-19 and operating on pick-up and delivery only, restaurants have become more reliant on ghost kitchen models in which restaurants only operate on a delivery or pick-up only basis.

Customers located near the Indianapolis or Columbus locations can select from a menu of more than 80 meals.

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A number of food tech companies have experimented with ghost or cloud kitchens in recent years. Third-party food delivery service DoorDash last year debuted the satellite kitchen in the Bay Area in 2019. And Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick launched CloudKitchens, a similar satellite kitchen and food delivery service and culinary space.

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Kroger Is the Latest Entrant in the Rapidly Growing Ghost Kitchen Segment

Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. and second largest food retailer, is expanding into the ghost kitchen category, going up against a field of startups and delivery service providers including DoorDash.

The company today announced the launch of two on-premises kitchens at locations in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, in partnership with ClusterTruck, a tech startup that operates delivery and in-store pickup restaurants.

“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 vp of fresh merchandising, in a statement.

Here’s how it works: Kroger is carving out about 1,000 square feet at each of the stores for ClusterTruck staff to prepare meals. The ghost kitchen, a term used to describe professional cooking facilities built for delivery-only meals, will provide a variety of on-demand menu items with no delivery or service fees. Customers can order from a menu offering more than 80 meals.

De la Rosa calls the kitchen “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.”

This is in line with grocery chains’ ecommerce evolution, which has helped deliver 127% digital sales growth in the second quarter.

As for its partner, ClusterTruck is building a software system that creates custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations while removing the “pain points” of third-party delivery to ensure all meals are delivered to customers within seven minutes of their preparation and, on average, less than 30 minutes of ordering.

“ClusterTruck combines leading software, high-quality ingredients, and delicious variety to elevate the prepared food delivery experience,” said Chris Baggott, ClusterTruck co-founder and CEO,