In the past 12 years, Chris Tomasso has watched First Watch balloon from a 60-unit concept to more than 250 restaurants across America, making it perhaps the fastest-growing daytime-only concept in the market. This past year, despite just being open weekdays for breakfast and lunch and weekends for brunch (units close at 2:30 p.m.), First Watch generated $231 million in revenue.
Tomasso, who was promoted to president in 2015, is now taking the top role as the company aims to continue its impressive run. First Watch Restaurants, Inc., which also operates 75 The Egg & I restaurants, and one Bread & Company location in Nashville, announced June 11 that Tomasso is succeeding Ken Pendery as chief executive officer, effective immediately. Pendery is shifting into a role as executive chairman, where he will work as a liaison between First Watch’s management, board of directors, and its private-equity partner, the company said.
Advent International, a firm with investments in Bojangles’, Party City, and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, made a majority investment in First Watch in late 2017. First Watch has an additional 30 locations planned for 2018 through a combination of company-owned, franchise growth, and restaurant conversions.
“Back in 1984, I helped our founder John Sullivan open the second restaurant in San Mateo, California, and I officially joined the First Watch team in 1986. Our goals back then were simple: create a unique breakfast, brunch and lunch offering while providing for our families, play a little golf in the afternoons and create opportunities in our community,” Pendery said in a statement. “During the past 32 years, I have had the tremendous honor to work alongside some incredible people, and I am so proud of the company we have built.”
Before joining First Watch in August 2006 as chief marketing officer, Tomasso served as vice president of marketing for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. He also previously worked at Hard Rock Café International as vice president of worldwide marketing.
“I am both humbled and excited by the opportunity to lead First Watch as CEO. I look forward to continuing to work with our passionate management team to build upon the solid foundation that Ken so carefully created and to realize the opportunities we have going forward,” Tomasso said in a statement. “I am focused on continuing our legacy of building significant customer relationships while accelerating the innovation and execution that our customers now expect from First Watch. I appreciate Ken’s guidance and partnership and will continue to rely upon him for strategic counsel and to provide historical perspective—both of which have high value in our organization.