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Kroger said yesterday that it is partnering with ClusterTruck, described as "a software platform that powers profitable, vertically integrated delivery-only kitchens," in a partnership for ghost kitchens that it says "will change the way Americans access freshly prepared meals. By offering multiple menus from one central scratch kitchen, Kroger Delivery Kitchen will deliver fresh and delicious meals on-demand without service or delivery fees."

Yael Cosset, Kroger's CIO, says in a prepared statement that "Kroger is leveraging ClusterTruck's advanced technology to ensure our customers don't have to sacrifice quality and value for convenience when it comes to meal delivery. Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck will allow our customers to access restaurant-quality fresh and delicious meals like never before and without having to pay excessive service or delivery fees."

To begin, Kroger and ClusterTruck will be offering the ghost kitchen services in Carmel and Indianapolis, Indiana, as well as in Columbus, Ohio and in Kroger's King Soopers division in Denver.

The announcement notes that "ClusterTruck was co-founded in 2015 and launched its first kitchen in 2016. The Indianapolis-based company owns and operates vertically integrated delivery-only kitchens. ClusterTruck's dark kitchens are powered by a proprietary software system that uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations. This systematic approach to meal delivery ensures that nearly every order is in the hands of the customer within 7 minutes of the meal's preparation. The average time between placing an order and a customer receiving their food is less than 30 minutes."
KC's View:
Ghost kitchens. Dark stores. All part of the same ecosystem of unorthodox approaches to satisfying customers and doing so without putting an unbearable amount of pressure on existing infrastructures.

And, I think, the kind of move and partnership that more companies have to make if they are going to innovate at the level they need to in order to be competitive.

My only caveat - Kroger needs to make sure that ClusterTruck cannot weaponize its customer data against it. Because if that happens, it will simply be a repeat of what Instacart can do against its retail clients, and Kroger will find itself totally trucked.