Indianapolis-based ClusterTruck is Food On Demand’s next Outstanding Operator

ClusterTruck CEO Janet Monroe remembers the day the idea for the concept popped into co-founder Chris Baggot’s mind. 

A restauranteur had expressed frustration to the duo, regarding the delivery experience for customers as his Artisan-style pizza did not survive the delivery transit well.

“Chris said, what if I could solve the problem of getting food to customers immediately when it’s done, just like in a restaurant,” Monroe reflected. 

ClusterTruck was founded in 2015. Food On Demand previously did a deep dive into the concept, which is essentially a collection of different menus, all cooked in one central, delivery-only kitchen.  

ClusterTruck’s first delivery-only kitchen opened in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The move was ahead of its time, established far before ghost kitchens were common, and ahead of the delivery-kitchen 2020 boom.

Its in-house, created brands offer everything from pad Thai to hamburgers which are cooked utilizing smart equipment and handed off to a ClusterTruck gig driver for a super-fast delivery. From order to delivery, the average time for the company is just 21 minutes. 

Like much of the industry, the key to this streamlined experience is the underlying technology.

Back-end software streamlines delivery

After years as a tech entrepreneur, Baggot developed the software for ClusterTruck, now called Empower Delivery, as a way to control the entire delivery process from the ordering, cooking and drivers—through a single end-to-end software.

Its functionality includes “smart fire times,” kitchen display system orchestration and expo management. The system makes sure to inform employees to not start cooking until a driver is present, with drivers waiting no more than 10 minutes for the order. 

ClusterTruck CEO Janet Monroe

“We make sure that we don’t waste any time, the order comes into the kitchen, it hits the stations, it cooks, it hits the expo [employee], the expo packages and brings it to the driver,” explained Monroe. 

In addition, ClusterTruck features a loyalty program, enabling guests to receive points for ordering direct and gain discounts on their next meal. This allows for receiving important customer data, to aid in retention. The platform also offers free delivery and reasonable menu prices. 

The success of the software at ClusterTruck led Baggot to eventually license the software out to other restaurants. 

Driver-first mentality 

At ClusterTruck, drivers do not have to get out of their car, they pull up to the curb, are handed the order, type in a code on the outside receipt and are off.  Monroe says this driver-first mentality has been a vital part of the brand’s success. 

Gig workers pick up and deliver within a seven-minute driving radius which enables them to complete multiple orders within the hour. 

“Normally we have drivers lining up before we’re even open, two or three hours ahead, just because they want to be in the queue and drive for us that day,” said Monroe. 

ClusterTruck has grown to seven locations, four in the Indianapolis area, two in Ohio and one in Kansas City. The company also inked a partnership deal with grocery giant Kroger in 2019, bringing the concept into grocery-kitchens. 

ClusterTruck inked a deal with grocery giant Kroger in 2019.

The company also recently launched its franchisee program. Looking ahead Monroe says the team is focusing its energy on making sure the upcoming franchisees have a great experience. 

All this innovation is what originally attracted Monroe to the job. Monroe started as an attorney for ClusterTruck before moving up to a President role and eventual CEO. 

“We had a head-start,” said Monroe on the company’s innovation. “How we deliver the food with a dialed-in process, with the software and the back-end operations, how we incentivize our drivers and staff…the culture here is amazing and I feel like this is a launching pad.” 

The Outstanding Operators Program is highlighting 20 innovative brands taking creative paths to success with all things off-premises. Winners receive a $1000 charitable donation to the organization of choice and will be recognized on-stage at the 2024 Food On Demand Conference. Register today!

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