The Kroger Company, which ranks as the United States’ largest supermarket chain by revenue and the fifth-largest retailer in the world, announced this week that it is expanding tangentially into the restaurant space with the launch of Kroger Delivery Kitchen. The company is doing so in partnership with ClusterTruck, a software platform that powers vertically integrated delivery-only kitchens.
Kroger Delivery Kitchen will reportedly deliver meals on-demand without service or delivery fees. For the initial rollout, Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck, as the new entity is being called, is launching in Carmel, Indiana, where Kroger and ClusterTruck are jointly opening a fourth kitchen, and Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio. Additionally, King Soopers Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck will serve customers in Denver.
“The way our customers order and receive meals is evolving, and ClusterTruck’s innovative culinary and digital design is cracking the code for the future of profitable meal delivery,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s CIO in a press statement. “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.”
Founded by Bernard Kroger in 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger currently operates, either directly or through its subsidiaries, 2,759 supermarkets and multi-department stores. Kroger’s headquarters are in downtown Cincinnati. By contrast, ClusterTruck was founded in 2015 and launched its first kitchen in 2016. Until now, ClusterTruck, with locations in Indiana, Ohio, Kansas City and Denver, has operated a virtual kitchen with an extensive menu of meals that it prepares and delivers through its own delivery fleet. The Indianapolis-based company raised $10 million in funding.
Also known as cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens and dark kitchens, ClusterTruck is one of several emerging companies that combine next-generation restaurant technology and business models, underutilized, shared, or simply more cost-efficient properties, and good old-fashioned food preparation, all for the sole purpose of restaurant food delivery. These companies include aptly-named Virtual Kitchen Co. which formally launched last month with a $15 million series A financing round.
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 aims to ensure that nearly every order is in the hands of the customer within seven minutes of the meal’s preparation. The average time between placing an order and a customer receiving their food is less than 30 minutes, according to the company.
“ClusterTruck’s ultra-fresh and quick made-from-scratch meals set them apart in the food delivery landscape,” said Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh, in a statement. “Kroger Delivery Kitchen customers can order pizza or pad Thai on the same order and get it delivered hot and fresh, within minutes of the meals being prepared. We are excited to work together to bring this partnership to life to provide our customers with real food delivered to their doorstep.”