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Life at Toast Blog

Meet the Leader: Jehad Affoneh, Chief Design Officer

Bria F.

Content Writer, Employee Experience

 

 

Jehad Affoneh, Toast Chief Design Officer, is always on the search for the food that makes him feel close to home: Arabic food.


Hospitality is close to his heart and it’s one of our Toast values. Jehad grew up in a culture where your plate was always filled, you never left without a coffee, and you were always offered tea.


"Food is a big part of my culture," he said. "We cook for people when we invite them over. We show our love with food. We come together around the meals we love. That's the culture. So, in that way, food has been part of my story for a while."

 

A glimpse into a family meal

 

Jehad has built a career in technology across design, user experiences roles, and most recently served as Chief Design Officer at another company.


He joined Toast in June 2022 as our first ever Chief Design Officer, leading the design, user research, and customer experience platform teams.


“The Chief Design Officer (CDO) is an essential leadership role needed on high growth product teams,” shared Matt Kaplan, Senior Vice President of Product at Toast. “As companies like Toast evolve from a single product to a multi-product to a platform company, the complexity of the product experience grows tremendously. To combat this, product teams must invest in simplifying the user experiences such that their products work seamlessly together and feel like one unified product, all part of the same family and with the same high quality expected by their customers. The CDO creates a shared vision, develops best practices, and designs the organization to scale to hundreds of product teams all working to deliver great product experiences that continuously delight our customers. Jehad had the experience and the passion for the restaurant industry we were looking for and I'm super excited to work with him.” 


Jehad is excited to design experiences that delight restaurant owners, help them do what they love, and share their food and hospitality within their communities.


“We deliver real products that improve the lives of real people and help them make their living, whether it's the restaurant's owner, manager, or the employee,” he said. “I get to spend time with restaurants learning how they do things and how Toast can improve their livelihoods by doing the thing I love, which is designing and thinking about the experience.”


 

R&D Leadership Team

 

What type of work do you do day-to-day?


My job focuses on the experiences we're shipping to our customers and how we thoughtfully design experiences so they work well, work well together, and work well for the multitude of people who might be using that experience. 


In the restaurant ecosystem, you have the restaurant managers, owners, operators,  employees, and  guests – we’re thinking of how you design experiences that delight and help these different personas.


The user research team gets close to customers to decipher and understand insights. While the design team is focused on designing the product experiences. The customer experience platform team is responsible for the end to end customer experience from onboarding and support to how data flows across the system and so on. 


Those are the key pillars of the design team at Toast.

 

What do you do for fun outside of work?


Other than hanging out with friends at restaurants, I’m mostly reading and writing. Writing really clears my mind and I love reading. Spending time with a good book, reading articles, and learning, especially outside, is very enjoyable for me.


 

My wife & I enjoying another Toast restaurant in our area


My favorite book is Principles by Ray Dalio.  


It makes you live life with principles and orient yourself, and I use that with my team. I use it as I work and think through what principles drive me in this area, on this topic, or in this experience. 

 

Where are some opportunities for design to keep innovating for the restaurant industry?


In the restaurant, there is so much opportunity. One of the most exciting things so far has been the idea of going into vertical software as a service (SaaS).


We focus on restaurants and look to solve every single problem we find that is important to them. There is so much opportunity in every corner of every restaurant. Next time you’re in a restaurant, start to think of all of the things you may be taking for granted, then think about the ways design can help influence or enhance it.


Think about how Toast can start helping restaurants match their inventory to their menu, not only to say if an item is out of stock, but to make recommendations of how much of it to order next time. To price, higher or lower, based on what's involved in the recipe. How to choose something else when something in the market is changing prices.


Designers love to think of possibilities. Just take one piece of that experience and think of all the possibilities that Toast can conjure. That's what we get to do every day. 


That’s another reason why Toast is such an exciting place to be, especially for designers and user researchers.

 

How have you seen other companies embrace the end-to-end product lifecycle, and are those changes hard?


I think of the way our customers interact with our experiences, and on three different levels. There is the way they interact with our product experience. An example is the POS or scanning a QR code and looking at the menu.


There is also the customer experience for when you need support, help, or when you’re onboarding a new product and getting an install.


Then there is the way these experiences connect. Not just product to customer, but product to product. How do you connect them with the focus on jobs to be done versus just pieces? Then, how do you thoughtfully connect it into an experience? 


When you think about it that way, the end-to-end product lifecycle becomes product experiences, plus customer experiences, and end-to-end experiences. That's kind of the view we take as we look at how we drive our experience and strategy. It’s tough work because the deeper you go, the more connections there are between different pieces of that experience.

 

What role do you see design playing in our global expansion?

 
How we build inclusive experiences is core to how we think of design. 

 

As we grow globally, there are things that are immediately obvious, like languages. German and French are going to appear differently; Arabic and Hebrew are read right to left. 


But there are deeper layers of challenges related to the culture of each place. We expand into the way people experience restaurants, for example, in the Middle East, or the way people experience restaurants in Africa. The way people experience restaurants in Australia might not be how people experience restaurants in the United States.


Hospitality means different things to different cultures and the way we want to design experiences is that we want to make hospitality an easier execution within the context of that culture. Designing with all of that in mind and building inclusive experiences matters a lot.

 

In what other ways are you thinking about inclusivity?


How we think about inclusive experiences can help drive more inclusivity worldwide. This makes me think of a customer story. A guest loved a restaurant, but it wasn’t physically accessible to them. Toast TakeOut was the way they got the food they loved without needing to dine right at the restaurant. 


We think of inclusivity from many different angles at Toast. From restaurant operators, to folks who work at the restaurant, to the guests, that intersection of different people with different experiences and different goals ends up shaping an end to end experience for us.


We also think about how we're inclusive of different customers and different restaurant guests. If you think of a dine-in experience, for example, your experiences differ not just because of the food but because of the people involved. We want to enable every restaurant to share their favorite recipe but also their culture, their story, and their humanity. Restaurants are core to every community and we constantly seek to better understand those communities as we help restaurants to serve them.

 

Is there anything else you wanted to add?


I think Toast is a unique place because vertical SaaS allows us to go deep on the experiences we really need to get right. At the same time, it's such a huge problem to solve, and a ton of opportunity.


 

Spending time with Debra, our CTO, in the Seattle area


It's also a great place to ship business to business to consumer (B2B2C) experiences, so regardless of which type of designer you are and what you're focused on, there’s a place to make an impact.


Hospitality is at the core of who we are as a company as well as the people we serve. We want to build a culture where hospitality is core, so we can help customers do hospitality well. 


That's an amazing culture for design to thrive in.

 

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