Kroger joins the growing list of non-restaurant food companies trying their hand at ghost kitchens and virtual restaurants. The grocery retailer announced today it has partnered with Indianapolis-based food delivery service ClusterTruck to launch multiple ghost kitchens that serve up delivery-only meals.
Through the partnership, ClusterTruck will sell its restaurant-quality meals via the Kroger Delivery Kitchen website. Customers can browse the service’s extensive menu, which covers considerably more food types and dietary preferences than many regular restaurants, place an order, and pay online, just as they would with any other food delivery service. From the looks of it, ClusterTruck has essentially taken its existing menu and placed it within the Kroger Delivery Kitchen shop, making it accessible to a wider number of potential customers.
That’s only one aspect of the partnership, though. As we wrote earlier this year, ClusterTruck, which has been operating virtual restaurants since 2015, controls the entire delivery stack of its business, from creating recipes and managing menus to building the software that powers the whole operation. It even employs its own fleet of drivers. The service will bring all of these elements to the new ghost kitchen operation with Kroger, who, as mentioned above, is basically just providing the virtual storefront.
The partnership will launch with four kitchens, one in each of the following cities: Carmel, Indiana; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado.
Customers in delivery zones for Carmel, Indianapolis, and Columbus can now go to KrogerDeliveryKitchen.com to browse menus and place orders online. In Denver, where the operation is being handled by Kroger subsidiary King Scoopers, customers access the service through KingScoopersDelivery.com.
Whether Kroger and ClusterTruck will expand this operation to other U.S. cities remains to be seen. We have reached out to ClusterTruck and will update this post with more details as they arrive.
While the partnership is a high-profile one for a regional company like ClusterTruck, which is available mostly in the Midwest at this point, it’s also a smart move for Kroger. The concept of operating virtual restaurants out of ghost kitchens appeals nowadays to not just restaurants but also lifestyle brands, diet concepts, and celebrity chefs. Grocery stores were bound to follow at some point.
In fact, Kroger isn’t even the first supermarket chain to dabble in this area of the food industry. In China, Starbucks is operating ghost kitchens out of Alibaba’s Heme supermarkets as a way to fulfill more delivery orders. Expect more grocery store chains to follow with similar moves soon.