Will Kroger’s dark kitchens cook up something good?
When customers order pre-made meals from Kroger in the future, the food that shows up at their door might not have ever seen the inside of an operation owned by the nation’s largest supermarket operator. But if the hype about dark kitchens is true, the orders should get there lightning fast.
Kroger announced that it would begin piloting the use of dark kitchens to facilitate faster food delivery with a service called Kroger Delivery Kitchen in three urban and suburban U.S. markets. The vendor responsible for the enabling technology, ClusterTruck, has been in operation since 2016 with its own menu and purports to be able to get food to customers within 30 minutes of its being ordered and seven minutes of the completion of its preparation. Kroger Delivery Kitchen will offer customers multiple menus of food selections and will not have any service or delivery fees attached.
Grocers and foodservice retailers have been experimenting with dark kitchens (also known as “scratch kitchens” and “cloud kitchens”) as customer demand for both fresh pre-made food and fast home delivery created new challenges. The off-site food preparation facilities are usually located in industrial areas, and don’t serve dine-in customers. Retailers typically rent the facilities so they do not absorb the overhead of owning their own kitchens. They are often shared between multiple retailers, all preparing their own menus.
The concept of dark kitchens has been picking up, not only with retailers that sell food, but also with big names in the food delivery space.
For instance, a co-founder of rideshare/delivery startup Uber has gotten into the dark kitchen space, according to Financial Times, and tech giant Google is backing a cloud kitchen startup, which provides in-kitchen services and access to order processing solutions for a monthly fee.
In the U.K., numerous restaurants have already used shared cloud kitchen relationships with startups like Deliveroo Editions as a way to expand their footprint without opening new locations, BBC reports.
- Kroger Launches Dark Kitchen Partnership with ClusterTruck in Columbus, Denver and Indianapolis – Kroger/PRNewswire
- Are cloud kitchens the next evolution of food delivery? – RetailWire
- The start-ups building ‘dark kitchens’ for Uber Eats and Deliveroo – Financial Times
- Does your dinner come from a ‘dark kitchen’? – BBC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges facing retailers like Kroger that are experimenting with dark kitchens for home food delivery? What will determine the eventual success or failure of Kroger’s dark kitchen pilot?