Kroger opened its first ghost kitchen in Dallas, a concept that offers the selection of a mall food court but operates behind one counter and also delivers.
Kroger partnered with Pasadena, Calif.-based Kitchen United Mix to open its first local ghost kitchen earlier this month at its store on Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue.
Kitchen United is just inside the store’s main entrance. It’s hard to miss with its colorful signs, large counter and windows into a couple of mini kitchens. Customers only interact with Kitchen United employees.
The ghost kitchen opened with menus from six restaurants: Dog Haus hotdogs, Capriotti’s sandwiches, Curry UPnow Indian street food, Carl’s Jr. hamburgers, Fuku fried chicken and Monkey King noodles. There’s capacity to add more.
“It’s early to tell,” said Kroger’s vice president of merchandising Frank Romero, but the prospects of the partnership expanding are good.
Both Romero and Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano mentioned that the concept will target the return of students to the nearby Southern Methodist University campus.
Kitchen United pitches itself as a solution to roommates and families who have different food tastes but want to eat together. “Our secret sauce is that you place one order. It’s one transaction and one delivery fee,” Montagano said.
So far, the company has 14 freestanding ghost kitchens, including one in Frisco, and another one in the works for Plano. The Dallas location is the third inside a Kroger store. The other two opened early this year in Los Angeles and Houston.
The store inside Kroger’s Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles is near the UCLA campus where students have discovered it and are using it, Montagano said.
Joy Lai, chief operating officer at Kitchen United, said the company plans to open more locations in various settings. There’s one in the Hulu headquarters in Santa Monica.
Lai describes the concept as a virtual food hall because of the technology behind it, such as an app and an in-store digital board showing shoppers when their to-go order will be ready.
The idea is easy to sell to restaurants, Montanago said, “because there’s no capital investment versus spending at least $1 million and six months or more to open their own store.”
Busy Kroger stores are also a good place to find new customers, he said. Kroger likes the concept because it’s another reason for people to come to the store, Romero said.
Kitchen United was founded in 2017, and its largest shareholder is Google Ventures, the venture capital arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc. The company has raised $50 million so far.
Ghost kitchens have been around for a while, and there are several operators in Dallas.
Walmart recently said that it would partner with two North Texas taco shop owners to open a ghost kitchen later this summer in one of its Plano stores.©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.