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The Scrappy Origin Story of Toast, the Game-Changing Restaurant Tech Company Toast CEO and co-founder Aman Narang discusses the company's humble beginnings, their culture of scrappiness, and how they've transformed the way that restaurants do business.

By Shawn P. Walchef

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Disclaimer: Restaurant Influencers host Shawn Walchef is a paid consultant and content creator for Toast

How does a story become legend? When there's a reason for people to keep on telling it.

Sometimes what seems like a normal day in the life of an entrepreneur becomes the makings of company folklore. If we're lucky, those magical moments are recorded to share with the future.

There are a few old photos that capture one such moment in the history of Toast, when the future of restaurant tech was being created in a small, sparsely decorated basement office in Burlington, Mass. The photos show boxes on the floor, equipment scattered around, and a worn brown sofa pushed against a white desk that is covered with tablets and other devices running an early version of the software.

It's remarkable how far the company has come since those humble origins. Twelve years after its founding, Toast moved into its brand-new headquarters (or "Breadquarters" as the company jokingly calls it) in the busy Seaport area of Boston in March of 2024.

On the first day in the new HQ, eager "Toasters" toured their new workplace sipping on lattes with Toast-inspired foam art on top. With modern architecture, and lots of space for communication, connection, and collaboration — plus many other inviting amenities — the new office looks much different than the one seen in that old photograph. But at its heart, it holds the same scrappiness and dedication from its first home.

"When we dreamed up the idea for Toast in a bar in Kendall Square more than a decade ago, we never imagined the impact it would have on so many people and businesses," says co-founder Aman Narang.

Founding Toast

Toast was founded in 2012 by Aman Narang, Steve Fredette, and Jon Grimm. They all worked together at Endeca, which was sold to Oracle in 2011. They knew they wanted to start a company together, but they needed to come up with a big idea that could work.

The idea for Toast came during one of the many instances the trio dined out together around Boston. They were waiting an annoyingly long time for their check, and wished they could pay with their smartphone. There was their big idea.

Aman, Steve, and Jon knew by working together, and following their instincts, they could dream up new technology to help the restaurant industry.

"In the early days, the reason we were able to build a platform that was differentiated for restaurants was because we lived and breathed restaurants," Aman said.

Culture of Scrappiness

Aman remembers having a meeting early on with one of the larger hospitality groups in Boston who was thinking of trying Toast.

It was a very important meeting for the scrappy new tech company.

When the conversation turned to product support, the Toast team pointed to the "24/7 Support" promise on their website. "And he was smart," says Aman. "He called the support number."

That's when the phone in Aman's pocket started to ring.

Right in the middle of the meeting.

"What I hadn't told him at the time was the support number was actually a Google voice number that rang on everyone's phone in the company," he recounted. "And so the phone starts to ring in my pocket right when I'm sitting next to this guy and his full team."

After the fourth ring, Aman pulled out his phone and held it up to the team. "I told you, we have 24/7 support," he told them.

To this day, that group is still a Toast customer.

Sometimes growing a company means having to improvise and know when to do the right thing at the right moment. "Using good judgment," Aman adds, "and mostly being scrappy."

How do you maintain that type of scrappiness as your company scales? "Part of it is our culture," Aman said, adding that many Toast employees have extensive history working in the restaurant industry. "The work we do matters. It's tangible. It's for our community."

The big picture of success

Aman believes that the continued vibrancy and forward-thinking culture at Toast comes down to communication at all levels. "One of the most important trends is simply what you're hearing from your customers and what you're hearing from your teams," Aman said. "And just making sure we don't lose that signal."

Through his journey building and helping lead Toast to monumental levels, Aman has seen firsthand how much energy and effort go into building a great restaurant. "I have so much respect for restaurateurs because it's a business where it's always on… And you see, as a result, supporting them is meaningful work," he said. "And that gets me out of bed every morning."

Looking back at that now-famous photo of Toast's first office, it's clear there's so much more to it than what we might see on the surface.

Photos like that are reminders of moments when a founder must do whatever it takes to make their dreams into a real foundation for growth. Aman, Steve, Jon and the Toast team they built have worked tirelessly for more than a decade to serve restaurants, and Toast's work is far from done.

As they settle into their new Boston office, Toast is writing its next chapter of a legendary story.

"The thing that I've come to appreciate now is you can walk into a restaurant anywhere in the country with a Toast hat on with the logo, and people know what that is," Aman said. "What I've learned along the way is how much naming and branding matters, because it can represent what you stand for… What your values are, who you are, what your brand represents."

About Restaurant Influencers

Restaurant Influencers is brought to you by Toast, the powerful restaurant point-of-sale and management system that helps restaurants improve operations, increase sales and create a better guest experience.

Toast — Powering Successful Restaurants. Learn more about Toast.

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Shawn P. Walchef

Founder of Cali BBQ Media

“Be the show, not the commercial.”

Cali BBQ Media Founder Shawn Walchef helps brands and leaders leverage the new Business Creator Economy with strategic Smartphone Storytelling and Digital Hospitality.

His Cali BBQ restaurant company has generated more than $35 million since opening in 2008. They operate numerous locations in San Diego and beyond.

Shawn’s weekly video series Restaurant Influencers (published by Entrepreneur Media and produced by Cali BBQ Media) has been seen by over 25 million people.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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