Kroger to add ghost kitchens at stores for meal pickup, delivery

Construction is expected to begin in 2018 on a Kroger Marketplace grocery store in Springfield. FILE

Kroger Co. said Thursday that it will launch ghost kitchens at stores that will prepare meals on demand that can be picked up or delivered with no fee.

The ghost kitchens are in partnership with ClusterTruck, a start-up company that operates delivery-only restaurants. The grocer will provide 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.

The company is starting with locations in Indianapolis and Dublin near Columbus. There are no plans for the Dayton area at this time.

“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 vice president 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.”

The kitchens have become popular during COVID-19 as restaurant dining rooms have shuttered, customers have grown cautious about eating indoors, and online ordering has gained customers.

The menu will consist of about 80 meals that Kroger describes as “quality you can get at a sit-down restaurant with the personality of street food.”

Kroger says the expanded partnership comes after the grocer experienced a 127% rise in digital sales during the second quarter.

ClusterTruck’s delivery process is aided by technology to ensure that meals are delivered to the customer within seven minutes of preparation and within 30 minutes of ordering.

Orders are placed through the ClusterTruck app or on that company’s website and can be delivered to a customer’s home or picked up at a participating Kroger store.

Menus will be branded with the ClusterTruck name, though Kroger will provide some in-store promotion.

“ClusterTruck combines leading software, high-quality ingredients, and delicious variety to elevate the prepared food delivery experience,” said Chris Baggott, ClusterTruck co-founder and CEO. “As the prepared food delivery category continues to explode, we’re thrilled to play such a pivotal role in Kroger’s fresh and forward-thinking meal delivery strategy.”

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