We Built This Kitchen

Dan McFadden - Co-founder/CTO

Jun 11th, 2020

Carmel Opening Crew

Vertical Integration (n): The combination in one company of two or more stages of production normally operated by separate companies.

ClusterTruck is a vertically integrated food delivery company. We design our own menu items, we cook them in our own kitchen and we deliver them with our drivers and cyclists. All while running it on our own software platform. This is why we can outperform our non-vertically integrated “competition” even on our worst day. I quote “competition” because I don’t really think we have competitors, we’re playing a different game than them. You can read more about this in Engineered For Delivery.

Wow, ClusterTruck… you sound like a control freak. Yes, I guess kinda we are. We obsess over controlling the entire experience. Always searching for areas of improvement to widen our moat, because we can. When you control your process, you control your destiny.

I want to tell you a story about how we took this idea of vertical integration to the next level.

In December of 2019, we formed a partnership with Kroger. It would require us to launch a kitchen in Carmel, Indiana in roughly 30 days. This timeline was pretty aggressive, even by our standards. Normally we have 3-6 months to build a kitchen. If we were going to get this done, we’d have to get creative and leap (not step) out of our comfort zone

Our HQ staff of about 20 people took on the work of countless contractors. We put down our laptops and picked up hammers and punch down tools. We hung up our chef’s coat and put on our painter’s coat. We literally built our Carmel kitchen. Our team took on removing the old equipment, cleaning (lots and lots of cleaning), flooring, installing new equipment, painting, networking and various other things. We hired out electrical and plumbing because we wanted the water to flow downhill and the lights to come on when we flipped the switch.

Chris Baggott Painting

Founder & CEO, Chris Baggott definitely doing something. Painting perhaps? Scraping a wall? I honestly don’t remember.

Our flooring crew, Alex & Alex Flooring LLC™️, are not going to earn any 5-star reviews on Google. But, they got the job done and that is all that matters.

Alex & Alex

Alex Peters (spraying something) and Alex Meadows (watching something being sprayed) from our CX team earning a solid 3 stars laying carpet

Fast forward to today, we’ve been up and running for 6 months serving the awesome people of Carmel. The sense of ownership is so real with this one. Going into that kitchen is so special every single time. We took it from a neglected, run down, chain restaurant to an amazing ClusterTruck kitchen.

Lessons were learned.

Was it fun? No… it sucked, actually. However, doing this solidified for me why nobody else does this.

It’s hard.

The food business is hard enough as it is. The food delivery business is cutthroat. Why add the extra stress of a building and staff when you can just ride on the broken backs of restaurants and let them do all the work. Why? Because sometimes the right thing to do is also the hard thing to do. Our “competitors” can’t even build their own burgers… we’re out here building our own kitchen to enable us to build our own burgers.

When you use ClusterTruck, you’re supporting a system that keeps the dollars with the people doing the work. If you take one thing away from this, just let it be that. At ClusterTruck we do the hard thing because it’s also the right thing.

In closing, I’d like to give a special shout out to our entire team for the hard work they did to get this kitchen built and launched on time. We would not be open without you. A special shout-out to Robb Greene, our COO who ran the project, did a lot of the work himself and basically lived there for a while and our GM James Mockerman, (you know him as Chef James from our emails), came through big time.

Thanks for your time and support.

Dan McFadden
CTO & Co-Founder