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Kroger announced this morning that it is launching "two on-premise kitchens, respectively at stores in Metro Indianapolis, IN and Metro Columbus, OH. 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."

According to the announcement, "the new concept will repurpose approximately 1,000 square feet at each participating store to create a culinary space for ClusterTruck staff to prepare meals for quick delivery and in-store pickup. Customers can order from a menu of more than 80 meals, spanning a variety of ingredients – and best characterized as food quality you can get at a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food."

ClusterTruck is defined in the announcement as 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 … The expansion of Kroger's relationship with ClusterTruck reflects the retailer's ongoing investments in providing a variety of prepared fresh food options and creating a seamless experience for customers. Kroger experienced a 127% digital sales lift in second quarter 2020, as customers continued to use digital ordering options, including pickup, delivery, and ship to home."

Kroger launches on-premise ghost kitchens in partnership with Midwest start-up ClusterTruck. The first location opens today in Fishers, Indiana.

KC's View:

I like this idea a lot - it provides both functionality and theater, which is a pretty good combination.

I must admit that I'm more enthusiastic about the concept that Lunds & Byerlys launched a couple of weeks ago, beginning a rotation of actual food truck operators, judged to be be high level and aspirational in their approach to food, though several of its stores.  For me, this has a little more grit and authenticity to it … but I'm a big fan of ghost kitchens as a concept that can help transform the foodservice space, and think Kroger deserves kudos for developing this alliance.