It was a Ukrainian summer morning and I was craving a veggie omelet (with NO tomatoes). Being from Orange County, California, I always have a hard time communicating my picky eating habits in foreign countries. But given that I had a permanent tech team in Ukraine, I had to make it work.
After so many visits, one restaurant learned my pickiness by heart and always knew exactly what I wanted (despite the language differences). But this one morning was different: The waiter was new and still learning the restaurant's menu. We struggled on my order: me being unable to tell him how I wanted my omelette in Ukrainian; him trying to both understand what I was saying and figuring out if it was on the menu. I saw the manager approach him with a paperback menu in hand and tell him “I’ll take it from here; go back, memorize the menu, and then come back.”
I immediately thought to myself, "that's just impossible; no one can memorize so much in so little time!” But there had to be a way to make it faster and better for both the waiters and managers. And in my obsession of creating a solution for everything, I just couldn’t let the thought go!
That's when the idea for Mr. Tomato was born: a mobile training platform that helps restaurant employees learn their menus in a quick and engaging way, using Artificial Intelligence and Gamification. After all, I’ve just had successful exit from a food industry data company; I had all the knowledge to bring this idea to life! All I had to do was gather a team to develop it.
At first, it was a kaleidoscope of people coming and going, designing and coding, building and renewing from afar. In 2021, a couple of restaurants tested the first version of our platform and it worked like magic for them. They started pitching their own ideas, such as a scheduling feature, interactive checklists, specialized certifications, an in-app messenger, and an AI newsfeed. Everything came together like the perfect big picture.
After many attempts and prototypes, I finally decided the project was promising enough to build a permanent team to develop it. I opened the first Mr. Tomato office in Ukraine with a team of developers, planners, programmers, and restaurant strategists. We collected clients all over Ukraine, from pizza places to Asian cuisine, all of them fascinated by how Mr. Tomato was transforming their restaurants into a well-oiled machine.
The plan was in motion, a brand new version was in the works. Long office hours, the dream closer every day, until the unexpected happened: the war in Ukraine. The entire team was startled and affected by the sudden and terrible situation. Some even left to serve their country. Others had to leave their homes. But among everything, Mr. Tomato never left our minds. We managed to remain afloat, allowing everyone to keep their jobs and the dream alive. We all went back to working from home where it was safe and managed to restart our plan. With our staff limitations, some of our team members juggled with different responsibilities at once, discovering some before hidden talents in the process! Mr. Tomato 2.0 was cooking up again and, after all the struggle, all the madness, and all the odds against us— in 2023, we have finally launched!
The new and revamped Mr. Tomato is now available for any restaurant around the globe, packed with the most sophisticated LXP technology, powered by AI and gamification. With the promise of simplifying restaurant training and onboarding procedures, we aim to be the definite solution for the current turnover crisis in the industry and help restaurants unlock their full potential.
Mr. Tomato was born out of Haroon Elsarrag's frustration with restaurant employees struggling to memorize menus. His solution was a mobile training platform that used AI and gamification to make learning quicker and more engaging. After a successful exit from a food industry data company, Haroon formed a team to develop Mr. Tomato. In 2021, a couple of restaurants tested the platform with great success, leading to the development of new features such as scheduling, interactive checklists, specialized certifications, and more. However, the team faced unexpected challenges when war broke out in Ukraine, where they were based. Despite the obstacles, they managed to keep the project alive and finally launched Mr. Tomato 2.0 in 2023. The platform is now available globally and aims to simplify restaurant training and onboarding procedures, helping to solve the industry's current turnover crisis.