Ghost kitchens enter grocery stores with Kroger-Kitchen United deal
Ghost kitchens are officially moving to grocery stores.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer, announced earlier this week that it is partnering with ghost cooking company Kitchen United to bring customers freshly prepared restaurant dishes served to order at participating chain locations. The off-site kitchen will include up to six local, regional or national restaurant brands, the companies said in a joint statement, and consumers can order through the Kitchen United website or app or on-site using kiosks.
The first location is slated to open this fall at a Ralphs store in the Los Angeles area.
“Our customers’ appetites for fresh, on-demand meals continue to accelerate, and we remain focused on delivering new and innovative products that deliver anything, anytime, anywhere,” said declared Dan De La Rosa, Kroger Group Vice President, Fresh Merchandising “Our partnership with Kitchen United leverages restaurants’ growing use of offsite kitchen space to increase customer access to their favorite foods.
Ghost kitchens have exploded in popularity during the pandemic, NSDigital restaurant orders grew 19% year-on-year in January 2019 to reach 145% year-on-year in December 2020, according to NPD’s daily monitoring of restaurant and other food outlets by consumers. Before COVID, the concept was limited to more industrial areas, but hybrid ghost kitchen / dining room combos have started to emerge in recent years. They are typically either managed by a single operator or by a ghost kitchen manager which grants the space to other users.
Restaurant owners and outside operators have also started renting vacant hotel kitchen spaces at the height of the pandemic. Matt Vannini, fourth-generation restaurateur and president of Restaurant Solutions Inc, told GlobeSt in a previous interview that the concept made a lot of sense.
“Hotels have space,” says Vannini. “They have separate storage, which creates a separate inventory. They have fully serviced areas that they can allow someone to use.
And a vacant restaurant space has also been activated for ghost kitchens, said Peter Klamka, CEO of Cordia.
“There is more vacant restaurant space than can be absorbed in a few lifetimes,” Klamka said in a previous interview with GlobeSt.com. He says a 2,000-square-foot commercial kitchen with a converted dining area for prep and pick-up is ideal, and his Los Angeles-based business is looking at old food courts, whether they’re old subways, downtown Chinese restaurants or indoor spaces. office buildings, which can be food centers – for potential ghost kitchen locations.
Ghost kitchens even find their place in multi-family buildings. Earlier this spring, Food and beverage platform C3 announced partnership with Akara Living to integrate ghost kitchens at Kenect, one of Akara’s serviced apartment communities in Nashville and Phoenix.