Food trucks by their nature are transient; however, several have set up a more permanent shop in Louisville Kroger stores.

Zoom Zoom Yum, a Turkish food truck, and JGoodwin’s Fusion Grill, a Southern taco truck, started operating food carts at the Kroger in Prospect, 5929 Timber Ridge Drive, within the last couple weeks.

J. Gumbo's is one of four businesses with a food cart in Kroger currently. | Courtesy of The Kroger Co.
J. Gumbo’s is one of four businesses with a food cart in Kroger. | Courtesy of the Kroger Co.

Around the same time, Red Top Gourmet Hot Dogs truck opened in the Kroger in the Eastgate Shopping Center in Middletown.

However, food trucks aren’t the only dining options getting into Kroger stores. Louisville-based Creole restaurant J. Gumbo’s also has a food cart in the Middletown Kroger.

The carts are set up near the deli section of each participating Kroger, and each eatery sells items off their menus from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week.

Most of the participating Kroger stores have a café area with seats, fountain drinks or a Starbucks, and free wireless Internet where customers can sit and eat food from the carts, said Michelle Uhl, the deli/bakery merchandiser for Kroger’s Mid-South Division. However, customers can always take it to-go as well.

Uhl said members of the Mid-South Division’s executive management team got the idea for adding the food carts after visiting a Whole Foods Market in New York.

“They came back with a picture on a cell phone and said, ‘Let’s make this happen,’” she said.

They started testing it in Lexington and Versailles, Ky., and now are moving them into the Louisville market. Kroger reached out to restaurant and food truck owners throughout the city to gauge their interest, Uhl said. But Kroger also was looking for businesses that didn’t clash with their own.

“We don’t want a food truck that sells fried chicken, because we sell the best fried chicken in the city,” she said.

In addition to the Middletown and Prospect stores, the Highlands Kroger on Bardstown Road will house two food carts featuring Get It On a Bun at Booty’s burger and sandwich food truck, and Havana Rumba, Fernando Martinez’s Cuban restaurant. The Highlands food carts will be up and running in mid-September.

“We are ecstatic about it,” said Tammy Boutiette, owner of Get It On a Bun at Booty’s. “It’s really cool, because I don’t have the overhead.”

The partnership also started a relationship between Kroger and Get It On a Bun, Boutiette said, that could be helpful if the food truck ever decides to package its meat rubs and meats.

”Kroger is absolutely the best place to go for that,” she said.

The Springhurst Kroger, 9440 Brownsboro Road, also will have two food carts. Contracts haven’t been signed yet, but For Goodness Crepes and American cuisine food truck Lexie Lu’s are expected to take those two spots.

Red Top Gourmet Hot Dogs' cart is located in the Middletown Kroger store. | Courtesy of The Kroger Co.
Red Top Gourmet Hot Dogs’ cart is located in the Middletown Kroger store. | Courtesy of the Kroger Co.

Kroger provides the carts, and each business pays a percentage of sales as rent to the Cincinnati-based grocery company. Kroger representatives declined to disclose what the percentage is.

Kroger currently has a six-month contract with each vendor, but there is an option to renew it after that. Kroger may also look to add food carts into additional Louisville Kroger stores as they are renovated or built.

“As long as they are happy and our customers are happy, I expect this to grow,” Uhl said. “It is great for the community.”

Zoom Zoom Yum owner Gia Burklow said the relationship with Kroger provides her with an opportunity to market her business on a broader scale than is possible as a small-business owner.

Of course, she is there to make money as well. Just more than two weeks in, Burklow said business is picking up as people are starting to realize that the store now can serve as a viable lunch option for nearby workers.

“From the first week, there is a difference in sales,” she said. “Since I am getting regulars back already, I am getting a good feeling.”

Burklow said she has family members helping her man the cart as well as her food truck.

The food cart initiative is the continuation of multiple efforts by Kroger to incorporate local touches into its locations.

The first piece of that was slowly introducing 140 Kentucky Proud products into Kroger through a partnership with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Then Kroger partnered with local artists to create murals in several stores.

The next step was to bring in existing food trucks and restaurants to sell food in Kroger, said Tim McGurk, public affairs manager for Kroger’s Louisville division.

“We are going to do a better job connecting with the neighborhoods and communities our stores serve,” McGurk said.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]