The country's largest grocery seller is offering fee-free delivery of "restaurant quality" fresh meals in four cities.

By Mike Pomranz
December 03, 2019
The Kroger Co.

The past decade has seen a huge push towards making eating at home more convenient. Needless to say, the restaurant delivery industry has exploded, but even cooking has become easier. Grocers have rolled out delivery, too, and meal kit services figured they could simplify things further by portioning out ingredients in advance. But now, Kroger—America’s largest grocery chain—is streamlining things to the max: bringing cooked meals right to your door. Yes, it’s gone full circle: Your grocery store now also wants to be your restaurant delivery service.

This week, Kroger has announced a partnership with ClusterTruck (I appreciate the wordplay, but I’m not sure how appropriate it is)—a platform for delivery-only kitchens—so that the grocer can launch its own Kroger Delivery Kitchens. These "ghost" kitchens (Kroger prefers the term "dark" kitchens, though presumably the lights are on while people cook) only handle delivery orders and are not attached to any restaurant. Instead, shoppers simply go to the Kroger Delivery Kitchens website, place an order for meals like avocado toast, an Applewood chicken salad, or a buffalo chicken wrap, and it will be, as the slogan states, "cooked fresh; delivered free."

The Kroger Co.

"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," Yael Cosset, Kroger's CIO, said in the announcement. "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."

Specifically, Kroger explains that ClusterTruck "uses custom algorithms to optimize kitchen and delivery operations," meaning that "nearly every order is in the hands of the customer within seven minutes of the meal's preparation" for an average wait time from order to eating of "less than 30 minutes."

"ClusterTruck's ultra-fresh and quick made-from-scratch meals set them apart in the food delivery landscape," Suzy Monford, Kroger's group vice president of fresh, added. "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."

The Kroger Co.

These Delivery Kitchens have initially been rolled out in four cities: Indianapolis and Carmel, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado, where the service will be known as King Soopers Delivery Kitchen (because Kroger-run grocery stores in the area are called King Soopers). If the program proves successful, it will likely expand.

A quick look at the Downtown Columbus menu proves that, yes, the selection is extensive and diverse: Eight "Brekkie" morning options, 14 Greens & Soups, 21 "Grubfare" comfort food selections including an Impossible burger, eight Rice & Noodle choices including a Chilled Vietnamese Noodle Bowl and a Poke Bowl, 13 "Wings + Pie" options covering pizzeria fare, 14 "Comida" items billed as "Latin inspired street food," and six kids meals—as well as plenty of sides, deserts, and drinks.

However, part of the fun of restaurant delivery is getting a meal you crave from a restaurant you love. People know the Kroger brand, but it remains to be seen how many of them will turn to their grocery store for a delivered meal… even if that meal is "powered by ClusterTruck." That said, with "over 11 million customers daily," Kroger will certainly have no shortage of opportunities to plug its new venture. And though no cross-promotional tactics were mentioned in the announcement specifically, finding ways to integrate this service with people’s regular shopping feels inevitable.

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