How Byte Helped Go Buddha Launch Their “Food ATM” Concept To Kill Food Deserts
Go Buddha is a restaurant and online meal delivery service headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio. As the executive chef of the Cleveland Indians, Joshua is driven by his philosophy on healthy eating as preventative medicine and is passionate about helping people live full, balanced lives.
“It's always been my mission to make sure that people get food. That's the crazy thing about our food system—there’s plenty of food, we just don’t get it to everyone.” — Joshua Ingraham, Founder
Food deserts across Cleveland desperately need access to fresh food. Dropping $180K on a lease per location was the bottleneck to local growth.
Eliminate the startup cost of spinning up additional restaurant locations. Install “Food ATMs” that can offer a healthy alternative to late-night fast food.
Generating sales overnight and on Sundays when Go Buddha is closed. Clear path forward for low-cost brand expansion across Cleveland and beyond.
Go Buddha Wanted More Locations, but Couldn’t Swing Additional $180K Leases
Joshua Ingraham’s not your average food professional. His experience with the Cleveland Indians and the world-renown Cleveland Clinic drove him to the conclusion that healthy food is the best preventative medicine out there—and he’s determined to help more people access it.
When the coronavirus put Joshua out of work in early 2020, it was time to make a choice: he could search for another job, or he could act on an idea he’d had for years.
“The best interview I had was with Panera Bread for the assistant manager. I just was in charge of a $40 million operation, now I might be a part of the bread program. I realized it was time to start Go Buddha.”
Go Buddha launched in June of 2020 with three sales channels: a local restaurant, local delivery, and overnight shipping via ecommerce. The local community responded especially positively to the physical store and frequently began asking when new locations would open.
“We’re like, ‘Alright, sounds great. But my lease here is $180,000 for three years, so I can’t just pop up a bunch of restaurants.”
Driven by his ultimate mission of convenient healthy food, Joshua needed to find a way to get his fresh bowls and salads across the city without the burden and cost of delivery apps.
A “Food ATM” That Sells Go Buddha’s Bowls Anywhere
Joshua once had an idea he called Food Riot: a refrigerated pod he could place in food deserts across Cleveland, then stock with fresh meals a couple of times per week.
“This development team quoted me around $100,000 just to build the technology. I was trying to find someone to invest, but people didn’t really get it. That didn’t go too far.”
When Joshua came across Byte Technology’s smart fridge, he was stunned.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is Food Riot. This is exactly what I wanted.’ It was crazy to realize I didn’t have to go through the process of developing it all myself. It seemed too good to be true.”
Go Buddha opened its first Byte fridge—dubbed a “Food ATM”—in January of 2021.
Late-Night and Sunday Sales, With a Side of Mission-Driven Growth
Go Buddha’s Food ATM sits in-between two entry doorways to the restaurant. Joshua keeps the outer door unlocked when the store is closed so people can walk in, order food from the ATM, and go on their way.
“We see most of the Byte sales at night and on Sundays when we’re closed. When you see the sales dashboard on Monday from Sunday, that’s great. I mean, it’s all gravy.”
The fridge has paid for itself throughout the worst pandemic spike and harsh winter conditions. And that’s made Joshua thrilled to see how it does when people are out and about again.
“We’re right next to a fitness studio. There’s a healthcare place across the street. Once there’s walking traffic again… it’s very exciting to get these Food ATMs out there.”
Joshua wasn’t surprised to find how excited the community was about the Food ATM, but it was the local business interest that really got the gears turning about the new growth opportunities.
“People see it, and they want to put it in their business, co-working space, or apartment buildings. I’ve already been in a couple of meetings, and they’re like, ‘We’re so sold on it!’ That’s the idea: growing Go Buddha without the overhead.”
But Joshua isn’t just thinking about tackling Cleveland food deserts. With established overnight shipping processes, and now a way to sell food 24/7 with little startup cost, he thinks he can put Go Buddha food in buildings around the country.
“We could ship you a Byte cooler, do an online training with that location, and then just ship our meals daily. They can restock there. It will still be our meals and branding.”
"Byte has allowed us to think way outside the box, and it’s going to be the perfect extension for our company. This is our growth strategy for 2021.”
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