First Watch Restaurants, the popular Bradenton-based nationwide breakfast, brunch and lunch concept, announced current President Chris Tomasso will take on the additional role and title of chief executive officer, succeeding Ken Pendery, who will become executive chairman of the Board. The move is effective immediately.

Chris Tomasso


“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,” said Pendery. “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. Chris and I have worked together for more than a decade, and he has played an integral role in the success of First Watch during that time. I am confident that he will approach this new role with the same passion and commitment to our culture that he has demonstrated these past 12 years, and I believe he is the ideal person to maintain our success and culture during this period of accelerated and aggressive growth.” 

Tomasso joined First Watch in August of 2006 as its first chief marketing officer when the company had about 60 restaurants in nine states. In 2015, he was named president and took on additional responsibilities including overseeing all aspects of the company’s operations while also joining the company’s Board of Directors. Prior to joining First Watch, Tomasso served as vice president of marketing for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and also previously served as vice president of worldwide marketing for Hard Rock Café International.

“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,” said Tomasso. “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.”

In Pendery’s new role as Executive Chairman, he will work as a liaison between First Watch’s management, Board of Directors and its private equity partner.

In late 2017, Advent International made a majority investment in the growing restaurant company. First Watch plans to open an additional 30 locations in 2018, through a combination of company-owned and franchise growth and restaurant conversions.

First Watch serves its entire menu seven days a week from 7 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and offers customers complimentary newspapers and free Wi-Fi Internet access.