The Kroger Co. is diving deeper into the fast-growing ghost kitchen space.
The country’s largest grocery retailer is partnering with ghost kitchen startup Kitchen United to provide customers freshly prepared restaurant food for takeout or delivery in select Kroger locations.
The off-premise kitchen (powered by Kitchen United) at the participating Kroger stores will feature up to six local, regional or national restaurant brands. Customers can place an order (for pickup or delivery) using the Kitchen United website or app. They can also order in-store at Kroger, using a dedicated kiosk.
Customers can select items from each of the featured restaurants to create a customized order on a single receipt. Restaurant staff will prepare the orders and delivery service fees will be determined by third-party providers.
The first Kitchen United-powered ghost kitchen at Kroger is expected to open this fall, at a Ralphs store in Los Angeles. Additional locations are expected to open later this year.
This is not Kroger’s first agreement with a ghost kitchen company. In 2019, the retailer partnered with ClusterTruck, a software platform that powers delivery-only kitchens, to deliver fresh meals on-demand with no service or delivery fees.
It went on to open two ghost kitchens in its stores, one in Fishers, Ind., and one in metro Columbus, Ohio, offering both delivery and pickup.
"Our customers' appetite for fresh, on-demand meals continues to accelerate, and we remain focused on offering new and innovative products that provide anything, anytime, anywhere," said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger's group VP, of fresh merchandising "Our partnership with Kitchen United taps into restaurants' growing use of off-premise kitchen space to increase customers' access to their favorite foods."
Kitchen United has a different business model than ClusterTruck, which offers Kroger-branded food, in that it provides access to local and national restaurant brands. The company has opened six locations to date, with plans to open in Manhattan this fall. It also is expanding into malls via a deal with Westfield.
“Our work together [with Kroger] provides participating restaurants access to millions of Kroger customers and the ability to better address off-premise demand in a convenient supermarket format — a frequent destination for most consumers,” said Michael Montagano, CEO of Kitchen United. “We've worked collaboratively with the Kroger team to curate a mix of popular restaurant brands, and we see a great opportunity to introduce our partnership in cities across the country."
Other retailers and restaurant chains, from Walmart to Nathan’s Famous, have also entered into ghost kitchen deals.