Two-thirds of the way through its companywide Restock Kroger strategy, grocery chain Kroger is entering the meals-on-demand business in a “dark kitchen” partnership with ClusterTruck.
The term dark kitchen, which is how Kroger describes the partnership in a news release, refers to the growing number of delivery-only kitchens that are competing with restaurants and such services as Uber Eats and DoorDash.
For the initial rollout, Kroger Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck is launching in Carmel, Indiana, where Kroger and ClusterTruck are jointly opening a kitchen, and in Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio, where ClusterTruck already has kitchens. Additionally, King Soopers Delivery Kitchen Powered by ClusterTruck will serve customers in Denver. King Soopers is a Kroger brand.
Customers in Carmel, Indianapolis and Columbus delivery zones can place orders through KrogerDeliveryKitchen.com or download the ClusterTruck app. Customers in Denver can visit KingSoopersDeliveryKitchen.com.
Kroger Delivery Kitchen will not charge customers service or delivery fees.
Restock Kroger is the company’s name for a vast initiative that began in 2018 and will extend into 2020. Among other goals, the company has been expanding its options for grocery ordering, in-store pickup and home delivery while focusing on “freshness” as a point of differentiation in its marketing.
Another area of expansion for the chain, which says it serves more than 11 million customers daily, is oven-ready kits, ready-to-heat sides and entrees.
“We are seeing double-digit growth in fresh meals and expect that momentum to continue in 2020,” senior vice president of merchandising Joseph Grieshaber said in a lengthy investor presentation on Nov. 5. “In 2019, we expanded the home shelf assortment from 725 stores to over 2,000 stores today.”
Although Kroger executives talked about various “alternative profit streams” during the presentation, meal delivery was not among them. It’s unclear from the company’s news release whether Kroger will be supplying food and ingredients to ClusterTruck for preparation and delivery.
MarketingDaily reached out to Kroger and ClusterTruck for clarification but did not receive a response by deadline.
The ClusterTruck website does not indicate where the company sources food for its extensive menu offerings, nor does it specify calorie counts or nutritional information. “We don't have this information publicly available yet, but we're working on it,” the website states. “Our meals are prepared in a kitchen environment that contains nuts, gluten, shellfish and dairy. We use best practices when preparing our meals, however, inadvertent cross-contamination may occur.”
In its recent report, Restaurant Industry 2030, the National Restaurant Association identified “cloud kitchens” and “virtual restaurants” that exist only online or via an app as competitors to brick-and-mortar locations.
“The rise of ‘placeless restaurants’ will challenge and redefine the concept of what a restaurant is. Like other industries that have moved online, virtual restaurants would likely see a relative lowering [of] costs (such as staff and rent) and of other barriers to entry in launching a restaurant,” the report stated.