By Kevin Collison
(Editors note: The Kansas City ClusterTruck location opened in late December)
ClusterTruck, an online meal delivery service that rolled out in downtown Indianapolis two years ago, is opening a new kitchen in the River Market later this year.
The business plans to compete successfully with the likes of other online food delivery rivals uberEATS and Grubhub by preparing its dishes on site and delivering them to customers within a six- to eight minute drive time from its kitchen at 518 Grand Blvd.
“Grubhub and uberEATS goes to restaurants to pick up food, we actually have our own kitchen,” said Gwen Rango, spokeswoman for ClusterTruck. “We provide more consistency for our customers vs food coming from 15 different places.
“We have a pretty tight delivery zone to make sure our food is super fresh.”
The first ClusterTruck opened in Indy in April 2016, followed by an outlet in Bloomington, home of the University of Indiana. A third opened in downtown Columbus, Ohio last week.
The Kansas City operation is one of three ClusterTruck plans to open in downtowns by late November-early December, the others are in Denver and Cleveland.
And it is strictly a kitchen preparing meals for drivers to deliver to customers. There is no take-out or dine-in facilities, Rango emphasized.
“We’re not being super-public about the address because you can’t pick up food,” she said.
Software developed by the company’s co-founders CEO Chris Baggott and Chief Technology Officer Dan McFadden, is used for the ordering, preparation and delivery of the meals.
“They started in the tech world and developed the technology in house to make this possible,” Rango said
Menu items include breakfast croissants and burritos; salads; mac and cheese combinations; hamburgers, wraps and sandwiches; tacos; Pad Thai; pasta dishes and ice cream desserts.
The drivers are independent contractors, working when they want and according to demand. The kitchen expects to hire 10- to 15 people per shift.
Initially, the hours will be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. ClusterTruck also plans to deliver only south of the river to start, but again, that could change to include North Kansas City as ClusterTruck measures the market.
Customers order and pay for their food online. They pick up their food from the driver at their curb. The delivery is free, but drivers accept tips.
During the initial few days of operation, a select “beta group” of diners will get their food free as ClusterTruck breaks in its operation. You can apply here.
Rango said it’s no accident the ClusterTruck is clustering its expansion plans in the Midwest.
“We’re from the Midwest and we feel Kansas City, Columbus and Cleveland are like-minded, similar spirits to Indianapolis,” she said. “It’s the right-size city we can own and bring some value to.”