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40 Under 40 - Class of 2013
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 6 years ago

Christian Cotter, 29

Director of Management Recruitment and Development, First Watch Restaurants Inc.

Atlanta native Christian Cotter only moved to Sarasota in early 2012, but he doesn’t miss the cosmopolitan life of a big city.

“I absolutely love it here,” says Cotter. “I always wanted to live on the beach.”

Cotter also always wanted to work at a growing company that puts a premium on ethics and integrity. He believes he found that at University Park-based First Watch, a breakfast-brunch-lunch chain with more than 100 locations in 15 states.

Cotter’s wife, Leah, is from Sarasota, and the couple decided to move here from Atlanta in 2011. Cotter, who then worked for an IT staffing firm, looked for jobs locally in several industries. He ultimately met with First Watch President and CEO Ken Pendery, and Cotter liked what he heard, and saw.

Cotter is now responsible for finding managers for First Watch locations throughout the entire chain. It’s his second time around in the hospitality industry: He previously worked in management and operations at Waffle House.

In 18 months on the job Cotter has discovered an important use for social media websites like Facebook. It’s not only to promote the brand, but also to get a glance at a potential hire. “There are other great sites for identifying a candidate’s skill set,” Cotter says, “but Facebook is where people tell you about themselves.”

— Mark Gordon


City of residence: Sarasota

Birthplace: Atlanta, GA

Years on the Gulf Coast: 1.5 (and never leaving — my wife is a third generation Sarasota native)

Coolest business experience: Opening a new restaurant. It is incredible to see our people train and develop new staff and grow the First Watch brand. Each time it is a unique experience. It never gets old.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: It isn’t about today. Always make decisions based on a long-term view because the situation you are in today is directly attributable to your actions or choices from months or even years ago.

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Fred Couples and Danny Meyer. Cotter chose Meyer, the prominent New York City restaurateur, for his success. Couples, however, would be the ideal guest, says Cotter, not for golf but for his attitude. “He never seems to get rattled out there,” Cotter says. “Even when he’s not playing well, he always seems to keep it together.”

Best award you ever received: A woman who once worked for me mailed me a homemade Christmas ornament along with a letter a year after I left her market. It is a great reminder of the impact managers can have on those around them and the responsibility that comes with that.

Book you’re reading now: “America the Beautiful,” by Ben Carson

One community group you’re most involved with: Samaritan Counseling. It is such a great resource for those that need counseling but can’t afford it.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: A young Dustin Hoffman

If I had a magic wand I’d: Help the University of Georgia football team win the national championship. Go Dawgs! Or I’d make that dinner with Fred and Danny happen.

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