Kroger adds restaurant food to Dallas store with ghost kitchen

Kroger has opened its first shadow kitchen in Dallas, a concept that offers the selection of a mall food court but operates behind a counter and also delivers.

Kroger partnered with Pasadena, Calif.-based Kitchen United Mix to open its first local shadow kitchen Thursday at its Mockingbird Lane and Greenville Avenue store.

Kitchen United is located just inside the store’s main entrance. It’s hard to miss with its colorful signs, large counter and windows overlooking a few mini kitchens. Customers only interact with Kitchen United employees.

The ghost kitchen opened with menus from six restaurants: Dog Haus hot dogs, Capriotti sandwiches, Indian street food Curry UPnow, Carl’s Jr. burgers, Fuku fried chicken and Monkey King noodles. It is possible to add others.

“It’s early to tell,” said Kroger vice president of merchandising Frank Romero, but the prospects for expanding the partnership are good.

Romero and Kitchen United CEO Michael Montagano mentioned that the concept will target returning students to the nearby campus of Southern Methodist University.

Kitchen United markets itself as a solution for 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 charge,” Montagano said.

So far, the company has 14 stand-alone ghost kitchens, including one in Frisco and another in the works for Plano. The Dallas location is the third inside a Kroger store. The other two opened earlier this year in Los Angeles and Houston.

The store inside Kroger’s Ralphs supermarket in Los Angeles is near the UCLA campus where students discovered and use it, Montagano said.

Joy Lai, COO of Kitchen United, said the company plans to open more locations in various settings. There’s one at Hulu headquarters in Santa Monica.

Lai describes the concept as a virtual food hall because of the underlying technology, such as an app and an in-store digital board telling shoppers when their takeout order will be ready.

The idea is easy to sell to restaurants, Montanago said, “because there’s no capital investment compared to 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 people 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’s parent company, Alphabet Inc. The company has already raised $50 million.

Ghost kitchens have been around for a while, and there are several operators in Dallas.

Walmart recently said it would partner with two North Texas taco shop owners to open a ghost kitchen later this summer at one of its Plano stores.

Windows allow customers to see inside mini-kitchens where Kitchen United Mix foods are prepared in the same way as at participating restaurants.(Elias Valverde II / Personal photographer)

Twitter: @MariaHalkias

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