Kroger brings ClusterTruck ‘ghost kitchens’ on-premise

Following a successful pilot, The Kroger Co. is launching two “ghost kitchens” with partner ClusterTruck inside stores in metropolitan Indianapolis and outside Columbus, Ohio, for on-demand delivery of fresh-made meals.

Unlike off-premise “dark kitchens” or commissaries, the on-premise concept repurposes about 1,000 square feet of space at each store to create a culinary area for ClusterTruck staff to prepare meals for quick delivery and in-store pickup, Kroger said Thursday. Customers can order online from a menu of more than 80 meals.

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The on-premise concept USES about 1,000 square feet of space at each store to create a culinary area for ClusterTruck staff to prepare meals for delivery and in-store pickup.

So far, one on-premise kitchen has been opened in the Kroger supermarket in Fishers, Ind. Plans call for the second facility to open in the Kroger Marketplace store in Dublin, Ohio, later this year.

Kroger and ClusterTruck announced in December that they were testing service — dubbed Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck — via off-site “scratch kitchens” in Columbus and Indianapolis as well as in Carmel, Ind., where the companies jointly opened a kitchen. At the time, they also said Kroger’s King Soopers supermarket chain offered the ClusterTruck meal delivery service through a kitchen in Denver.

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According to ClusterTruck, all orders are delivered to customers within seven minutes of preparation and, on average, less than 30 minutes after ordering.

The ClusterTruck service carries no service or delivery fees. Kroger described the offering as “food quality you can get at a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food.” The Cincinnati-based grocer noted that the ClusterTruck partnership reflects ongoing efforts to invest in prepared fresh food and online options. In the second quarter, Kroger said it saw digital sales surge 127% year over year as customers continued to order online, using its pickup, delivery and ship-to-home services.

“Kroger remains focused on providing our customers with fresh food and experiences enabled by industry-leading insights and transformative technology,” Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising at Kroger, said in a statement. “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.”

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Kroger said the ClusterTruck meal service removes ‘the pain points of the third-party delivery model.’

Based in Indianapolis, ClusterTruck owns and operates vertically integrated, delivery-only kitchens in the Broad Ripple and downtown sections of Indianapolis; Carmel and Fishers, Ind.; downtown Columbus; Kansas City, Mo.; and Denver. Its ghost kitchens are powered by a proprietary software system that uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations, in turn removing “the pain points of the third-party delivery model,” according to Kroger.

ClusterTruck said all orders are delivered to customers within seven minutes of preparation and, on average, less than 30 minutes after ordering. Customers place orders online at KrogerDeliveryKitchen.com (KingSoopersDeliveryKitchen.com in Denver) or via the ClusterTruck mobile app. Menu offerings range from breakfast, salad and soup to rice and noodle dishes, wings, pizza, “grubfare” (burgers, wraps, sandwiches, gyro, mac and cheese, etc.), Latino entrees (burritos, tacos, quesadillas, etc.), sides, children’s meals, beverages and desserts.

“ClusterTruck combines leading software, high-quality ingredients, and delicious variety to elevate the prepared food delivery experience,” ClusterTruck co-founder and CEO Chris Baggott stated. “As the prepared food delivery category continues to explode, we’re thrilled to play such a pivotal role in Kroger’s fresh and forward-thinking meal delivery strategy.”