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Top First Watch executive, board member to retire

After almost 40 years, the current board member and former CEO of the company's subsidiary is stepping down.

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  • | 3:41 p.m. August 23, 2022
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(File photo)
(File photo)
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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After nearly 40 years with First Watch Restaurant Group Inc., board member Ken Pendery Jr. is retiring. 

Pendery will officially retire Sept. 1. The 68-year-old was recruited by company founder John Sullivan in 1983 to open the second First Watch restaurant, according to a press release. The Bradenton-based daytime dining concept now has more than 445 locations across the country. 

Since August 2017, Pendery has been a director for the company as well as the chair emeritus of the board since December 2019. He's held a variety of leadership roles for the brand since 1983.

“Ken has left an indelible mark on First Watch as a result of his outstanding leadership skills, business acumen, passion and commitment to excellence,” says Chris Tomasso, the CEO and president. “He has been instrumental in driving the company’s success and remarkable growth over the past 35-plus years by cultivating an organizational culture built on our ‘You First’ mission, which puts serving others above all else. 

“It has been a true privilege to work closely with Ken during my 16 years here, and while we will certainly miss his leadership and counsel, his legacy is deeply ingrained in our culture and is felt in the many leaders he has mentored over the years.”

Tomasso also notes in the release that the retirement has been planned since early 2021. 

“I have greatly enjoyed my decadeslong journey at First Watch, and it truly has been a privilege to play a role in helping build First Watch into the great company that it is today,” Pendery says. “I’ve spent over 16 years with Chris including the last four with him as CEO and know that he — along with the rest of the incredible executive team — will continue to provide strong leadership and direction for the company going forward into the next great chapter of the First Watch story.”

The breakfast, brunch and lunch concept went public last year, the first major company to do so in the Sarasota-Bradenton region in 15 years. The company's shares debuted on the Nasdaq on Oct. 1, under the symbol FWRG, for First Watch Restaurant Group. It posted $592.34 million in revenue in 2021, up 75.54% from $337.43 million in 2020.


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