Food withdrawal: GO Buddha makes plant-based eating as easy as going to the ATM

From Progressive Field to the Cleveland Clinic, Joshua Ingraham has made a successful career feeding customers the foods they both want to eat—like the ballpark cuisine fans enjoy at a Cleveland Indians game—and need to eat—like sustainable plant-based meals some Cleveland Clinic patients who need that diet.

While working at the Clinic, Ingraham learned about functional medicine and the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet. “I got to play around with a bunch of stuff, and I learned a ton,” he recalls of his time at the hospital. “I met 1,400 patients a day and I got really close to functional medicine. I love it—you’re using food as medicine.”

His vegan creations were so successful that Ingraham founded Go Buddha Meals in late 2019, delivering his plant-based meals to Clinic outpatients and later to customers through online deliveries and mail order.

Joshua Ingraham, Co-Owner at Go Buddha When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Cleveland, the Lakewood resident made a somewhat risky move: He quit his job as executive chef at the Clinic, returned to his position as executive chef at Progressive Field (at a time when the season was suspended indefinitely), and in July 2020 opened Go Buddha Meals takeout and delivery restaurant in Rocky River at 19900 Detroit Road.

Ingraham says he wanted to share his knowledge of healthy, tasty food with the public. His mission: To create the most affordable and accessible functional plant-based food program in the world, inspiring healthy families and supporting stronger communities.

“It’s my dream I’m working on now,” Ingraham says. They are so delicious that GO Buddha was nominated for best new meal service in VegNews’ 2021 Veggie Awards.

The restaurant delivers within a 35-mile radius (free delivery with $100 orders) and offers overnight shipping across the country (free with $130 purchase).

The restaurant is doing a steady business and Ingraham is shipping about 100 orders a week, and he serves about 500 walk-in customers weekly.

As plant-based diets continue to grow in popularity, so does Go Buddha’s presence. On Friday, Jan. 22, Ingraham launched his newest entrepreneurial endeavor—an “ATM machine” that dispenses ready-to-go vegan
meals, salads, snacks, and juices.

“I’m trying to stay ahead in food technology and go beyond just shipping,” Ingraham says. “I’m lucky enough to have an interest in people who want a plant-based diet. It’s great.”

The ATM, or the
GO Buddha Micro-Market—which is in the restaurant vestibule—is available around the clock. Customers swipe their credit cards to access the menu, choose what items they want, and an RF code records what is taken from the machine.

The micro-mart offers all of GO Buddha’s customer favorites, like the Buddha Burger (a smoked beet burger, cashew nacho cheese, power greens, and pickled red onion on a vegan, gluten-free bun), the Walnut Taco Bowl (walnut taco meat, power greens, cilantro brown rice, grape tomatoes, bell pepper corn relish, spicy black beans, shredded red cabbage, and chipotle cheez sauce
), or the Walnut Cauliflower Bolognese with Zucchini Noodles (crushed walnuts and roasted ground cauliflower mixed with vine ripened tomato sauce over zucchini noodles and cashew parmesan).

The mini market also offers bags of coffee from Ready Set! Coffee Roasters and cheesecake from NOMaste Plant-Based Cakes.

Ingraham says the menu changes weekly, so customers can try a variety of options, instead of getting the same old thing over and over. “For fresh food, we need to keep things exciting,” he says, adding that one machine holds 60 to 75 items.  

So far, the ATM has been popular. Ingraham says the first day brought in about $100 worth of purchases, with items costing between $7.50 and $12 (the same prices as the regular menu). He says the machine continues to be popular—with Sundays being the busiest (the one day the restaurant is closed), with a steady flow of foot traffic.

He says a few dozen people stop at the micro-market each day. “I’m sure that number will go up as the weather gets better,” Ingraham says.

But Ingraham is not stopping with his restaurant. He is now working toward a goal of making his plant-based vegan snacks and meals as accessible as any traditional fast-food burger and fries. He says he would like to see his GO Buddha mini markets installed in office buildings, apartment buildings, and community facilities.

Calling the micro-market machine at the Detroit Road restaurant a “floor model,” Ingraham recently hosted about a dozen company representatives to demonstrate the GO Buddha micro-market. He says many of the guests are interested in installing a machine in their facilities.

To do that, he says he hopes to install Go Buddha micro-marts throughout the city as the plant-based diet trend continues. “Not everyone has to do a plant-based diet, but they should try it,” he says.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.