The Kroger Co. is diving deeper into on-demand delivery via in-store “ghost kitchens.”
The supermarket giant has opened a ghost kitchen — a kitchen or cooking space that prepares food exclusively for delivery or to go — at its store in Fishers, Ind., with a second to open later this year at its store in Dublin, Ohio. Developed in partnership with ClusterTruck, a technology start-up that operates delivery-only restaurants, the kitchens will provide a variety of freshly prepared meals on-demand with no service or delivery fees.
Kroger is dedicating about 1,000 sq. ft. to each of the kitchens, which will be operated by ClusterTruck and whose employees will prepare meals for quick delivery and in-store pickup. Customers can order online from a menu of more than 80 meals, with food quality akin to that of a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food, according to Kroger. Although most ghost kitchens service only online orders, the ones at Kroger will also accept orders placed by customers on in-store kiosks.
Kroger, which is an investor in ClusterTruck, piloted ghost kitchens with the start-up in late 2019, opening off-premise kitchens in three locations. The pilot is no longer operating.
"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 VP 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."
ClusterTruck is a pioneer in the ghost kitchen space, building a proprietary software system that creates custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations and removes the pain points of the third-party delivery model. ClusterTruck's systematic approach to meal delivery allows the company to ensure all orders are delivered to the customer within just seven minutes of preparation — and on average, less than 30 minutes of ordering.