With the title of America's largest grocery chain already locked down, Kroger has additionally expanded into the business of fast food within the past couple years. Through collaborations with both Clustertruck and Kitchen United, the company has launched 'ghost kitchens' within a handful of its stores across the country in order to offer freshly-prepared, restaurant-quality food for either carry-out or delivery, and consumers are quickly taking to the new concept.
Kroger first partnered with Clustertruck—a delivery-only restaurant with a menu ranging from burgers and wings to tacos and Asian-style meals—in 2019. And, following a successful pilot program, opened two ghost kitchens within existing stores in Columbus, Ohio and metro-Indianapolis.
In order to test out a different kind of kitchen center, Kroger announced a second partnership with Kitchen United in August 2021. In contrast to the Clustertruck operations, these on-site kitchens offer food options from multiple eateries such as Dog Haus, Wing Zone, Monkey King Noodle Company, Carl's Jr., Fresh Brothers, and more. The lineup varies at each existing in-store location which currently includes a Los Angeles Ralphs, a Kroger in Houston, and, as of this week, an additional Kroger in Dallas.
Although both brands of ghost kitchens have only been open for a short period of time, they are already having a positive impact according to analysis by Placer.ai.
"So far, the ClusterTruck and Kitchen United ghost kitchens only operate in a tiny fraction of Kroger's massive and nationally distributed store fleet, but foot traffic data from locations with ghost kitchens are already demonstrating the significant gains that come from this concept," the Placer.ai report said.
These spikes in traffic are promising for the grocery chain, and an article from the Cincinnati Business Inquirer speculated that this early success "could prompt [Kroger] to open more of those prepared foods facilities."
A story from the Dallas Morning News highlighting the most recent Kitchen United opening also mentioned that "the prospects of the partnership expanding are good". But, Kroger's vice president of merchandising Frank Romero commented, "it's early to tell".
These Kroger ghost kitchens additionally help the company compete with Walmart which has offered fast food options within its stores for quite some time. After ending a long-standing relationship with McDonald's, the retail corporation has also been diversifying its in-store food offerings recently, moving chains like Domino's, Taco Bell, Wendy's, and Shawarma Press into its stores.