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Company adds two C-level executives

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  • | 4:22 p.m. February 2, 2017
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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MANATEE COUNTY — First Watch, the fast-growing breakfast-brunch-lunch chain, added two C-level executives to its top management team.

Laura Sorensen was named Chief People Officer, a newly created role, while Eric Hartman was named new Chief Development Officer, according to a statement.

Sorensen, with more than 20 years of human resources experience, was previously a member of the executive team and the senior vice president of Human Resources for Darden's LongHorn Steakhouse. Before that she managed human resources for retail brands such as Chico's and Burdines. At First Watch, Sorensen will oversee staffing and people development, training, employee relations, diversity and strategic planning, the release states.

Hartman, meanwhile, joins First Watch after 20 years in real estate and development, including more than a decade leading numerous development-related functions for restaurant giant Bloomin' Brands. He most recently served as president and founder of SEVA Development, a commercial, residential and mixed-use development organization. Hartman will lead strategic planning initiatives, site selection, real estate and construction and facilities management functions at First Watch, the company says.

University Park-based First Watch also announced another hire: Lilah Taha-Rippett was named vice president of purchasing. Taha-Rippett has more than 25 years of restaurant experience.

“As we continue our aggressive growth, it is imperative that key disciplines within our organization are led by individuals who can guide their respective functional leaders and grow both their function and their people,” First Watch CEO said Ken Pendery says in the release. “Our focus on culture and people development continues to be an essential driving factor for First Watch, and in Laura, Eric and Lilah, we believe we have leaders that are experts in their fields and will contribute to the great culture we have built at First Watch.”

First Watch has more than 295 restaurants in 26 states, including more than 195 First Watch restaurants, 97 The Egg & I restaurants, one The Good Egg restaurant in Phoenix and one Bread & Co. restaurant in Nashville. The company recently disclosed that 2016 was one of its best years, including record average unit volumes.


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