The Kroger Co. said today it has reached a partnership with ghost kitchen operator Kitchen United that would bring a virtual food hall with multiple restaurant brands into its stores for takeout and online ordering and delivery.
The off-premise restaurant concept will debut in a Los Angeles Ralphs store later this year, with additional locations planned for the future, the companies said in a news release. The concept will provide in-store shoppers access to meals from as many as six local and national branded restaurants and serve as preparation and delivery hubs for online users of the Kitchen United website or app. The release did not specify the participating restaurant brands.
"Our customers' appetite for fresh, on-demand meals continues to accelerate, and we remain focused on offering new and innovative products that provide anything, anytime, anywhere,” said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger's group VP of fresh merchandising. "Our partnership with Kitchen United taps into restaurants' growing use of off-premise kitchen space to increase customers' access to their favorite foods.”
Kroger in 2019 announced a similar partnership with the Indianapolis-based dark-restaurant delivery pioneer ClusterTruck, which operates what the companies call Kroger Delivery Kitchens out of Kroger stores in Dublin, Ohio, and Fishers, Ind., as well as ClusterTruck’s own commissaries.
Ghost kitchens offer Kroger a new way to participate in the booming foodservice field while providing an efficient way for area restaurant brands to expand their reach and leverage Kroger’s store traffic. Such concepts could also take advantage of often-underutilized food preparation space in existing grocery stores, ClusterTruck founder Chris Baggott told WGB in an interview last year.
Kitchen United is a leading provider of restaurant hub technology, logistics and turn-key commercial kitchen space that lets foodservice operators tap into the growing off-premise business opportunity to save cost and labor vs. traditional brick-and-mortar sites. It was founded in Pasadena, Calif., in 2017 and currently operates kitchens in Pasadena and San Jose, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; and two hubs in Chicago. Several additional sites are under construction, according to the company's website.
"Kitchen United recognizes the significant value of Kroger as a strategic partner," said Michael Montagano, CEO of Kitchen United. "Our work together provides participating restaurants access to millions of Kroger customers and the ability to better address off-premise demand in a convenient supermarket format—a frequent destination for most consumers."
He added: "We've worked collaboratively with the Kroger team to curate a mix of popular restaurant brands, and we see a great opportunity to introduce our partnership in cities across the country."
When placing an order using the Kitchen United website or app or on-site via ordering kiosks, customers can select items from each on-site restaurant to create a customized order on a single receipt. Restaurant staff will prepare the orders and delivery service fees will be determined by third-party providers, the companies said.
"As we continue to define Kroger as a food destination, this collaboration creates another seamless way for our customers to order lunch or dinner for pick up while they shop for groceries or for delivery to their location of choice," said Craig Gauden, Kroger's director of partnership development.