Bojangles’ Investor Makes Majority Investment in First Watch
Advent International, one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors, announced that it has agreed to make a majority investment in First Watch Restaurants Inc., the prominent breakfast, brunch, and lunch concept. First Watch’s existing management team will continue to lead the company and will retain a meaningful equity stake in the business. The transaction is expected to close in the coming weeks. Financial terms were not disclosed. First Watch is a portfolio company of Freeman Spogli & Co.
Headquartered in University Park, Florida, and founded in 1983, First Watch operates full-service daytime cafés under the First Watch and The Egg & I brands. The restaurants serve breakfast, brunch and lunch from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., seven days a week. The company provides customers a unique farm-to-table experience through a variety of healthy, traditional and indulgent offerings, with a focus on fresh ingredients and outstanding service. First Watch currently has more than 300 locations across 26 states, predominantly in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Colorado, and Arizona.
"First Watch is a fresh and modern restaurant concept, serving craveable food with exceptional customer service,” said Tricia Patrick, Managing Director at Advent. "We are excited to partner with Ken Pendery, Chris Tomasso and the talented management team at First Watch, and to lend our expertise to support continued restaurant expansion, digital investment and innovation in the breakfast category. First Watch is strongly aligned with trends toward healthier eating and better ingredients, and positioned to not only grow within existing markets but also to expand the unique concept to guests in new geographies.”
“This is an exciting time for us at First Watch, and we are very pleased to be working with Advent as we enter our next phase of growth,” says Kenneth L. Pendery Jr., chief executive officer of First Watch. “With Advent’s support, we look forward to deepening our connection with consumers, building on our core business of serving healthy, high-quality breakfast, brunch and lunch, and continuing our thoughtful approach to driving significant value. We sincerely thank the team at Freeman Spogli for their trust, support and partnership in helping us to significantly expand our brand and solidify our position as the premier daytime-only restaurant concept in the United States.”
In recent years, First Watch has executed an aggressive growth plan, nearly tripling its total number of restaurants through organic company-owned restaurant growth, franchising and acquisitions. This plan has led to growth in revenue and EBITDA. For First Watch, 2016 marked 33 years of positive same-store sales growth, as the company finished the year up 7 percent supported by positive traffic. The brand’s strong performance can be attributed to maintaining a focus on delivering a superior, differentiated customer experience and culinary offering at an exceptional value that continues to resonate with a broad consumer demographic.
“We are pleased with First Watch’s performance during our partnership,” says John Roth, Chief Executive Officer at Freeman Spogli. “During our time together, the company has delivered industry-leading results, including 26 straight quarters of positive same-store sales, while increasing average unit volumes by 22 percent and nearly tripling EBITDA. We have enjoyed working with Ken and the First Watch team, and look forward to watching the business continue to succeed with Advent’s support and expertise.”
Advent International has significant investment experience in the retail, consumer and leisure industry. Over the past 27 years, the firm has invested more than $9 billion in 71 companies in the sector worldwide. In addition to First Watch, recent North American investments include Sovos Brands, whose businesses include Michael Angelo’s Gourmet Foods and Rao’s Specialty Foods; Noosa Yoghurt, lululemon athletica, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Serta Simmons Bedding, Party City, Bojangles’ and Five Below.
Jefferies and North Point Advisors are acting as financial advisors, and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius is acting as legal advisor to First Watch and Freeman Spogli in connection with the transaction. Weil, Gotshal & Manges is serving as legal advisor to Advent International.