Grocery giant The Kroger Co. is getting in on one of the restaurant industry’s hottest trends: Ghost kitchens.
The retailer on Thursday announced a partnership with delivery-only kitchen startup ClusterTruck to open ghost kitchens at stores near Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. The location in Fishers, Ind., is currently open, with plans to open one in Dublin, Ohio, later this year.
Kroger is repurposing about 1,000 square feet of space at its participating stores to make room for the ghost kitchen prep and pickup areas, the chain said in a statement. The ClusterTruck kitchens offer a menu of more than 80 delivery and takeout meals “best characterized as food quality you can get at a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food,” Kroger said in a statement.
"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,” Dan De La Rosa, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh merchandising, said in the news release.
Kroger reports it has seen a 127% increase in digital sales in Q2 as consumers gravitate towards digital ordering, pickup and delivery.
Indianapolis-based ClusterTruck got into the ghost kitchen space early, launching in 2015 as a “virtual food truck” concept. The company created a proprietary software system to boost operational efficiency, with average orders delivered to the customer within seven minutes of preparation and about 30 minutes after ordering, according to Kroger.
Kroger launched a pilot program with ClusterTruck late last year.
The ghost kitchen launch is far from Kroger’s first step into the restaurant space. The supermarket chain operates three full-service Kroger 1883 restaurants in the Cincinnati market and opened a food hall there, On the Rhine Eatery, last fall.