Business

Bradenton-based First Watch Restaurants sold

BRADENTON - First Watch Restaurants, based in Manatee County, has been sold to private equity firm Freeman Spogli & Co.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

First Watch’s existing management team of Chief Executive Officer Ken Pendery, Chief Financial Officer Ken Cruley and Chief Marketing Officer Chris Tomasso will continue to operate the company and will retain an equity stake in the business, the company announced.

Catterton Partners, a private equity firm, announced it had sold First Watch.

The company said the sale will not impact it's growth projections, opening 10 new restaurants across the country this year with plans for 15 more in 2012, including a site at the corner of Bee Ridge Road and Cattleman Road in Sarasota. The transaction will allow First Watch to remain privately owned and operated for at least the immediate future. Company officials said former majority owner Catterson's simply felt it was a good time to move on. The new majority owners, private equity firm Freeman Spogli & Co., also focuses on restaurants and retail. First Watch's headquarters will remain in Lakewood Ranch. The company employs more than 2,000 workers across the country. "Everything remains the same," First Watch president and CEO Kenneth Pendery told the Herald. "We're committed to our principles of good service and good food. We're looking forward to positive growth." Since partnering with First Watch in 2004, Catterton has worked closely with the First Watch management team to implement an aggressive growth plan, doubling the total number of restaurants and expanding into new markets throughout the Midwest and Southeast, the company said. “Working with Catterton, we were able to significantly expand our brand and solidify our position as the largest and fastest-growing daytime-only restaurant concept in the United States,” said Pendery. “Catterton has a remarkable track record of supporting and growing great restaurant concepts. With their strategic and operational expertise in site selection, pricing, brand development, and marketing, Catterton has helped us grow and expand our business, and has been instrumental to our success. " Catterton’s current restaurant investments include Cheddar’s, Noodles & Company, and Outback Steakhouse. Catterton’s realized restaurant investments include Baja Fresh, PF Chang’s China Bistro, and Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges.

Freeman Spogli is a private investment firm which invests in retail, direct marketing, distribution, retail services and consumer products companies positioned for growth. Since its founding in 1983, the firm has invested over $2.8 billion in 45 portfolio companies, the company's web site says. The aggregate value of the companies acquired in connection with these investments is approximately $17 billion.

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