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First Watch expands wellness and learning benefits to improve quality of life for 12,000 employees

40-year-old leader in daytime dining enhances mental health and well-being as well as employee proposition through extended benefits, improved frontline communication efforts and a new development program

 First Watch, the leading Daytime Dining concept with more than 470 restaurants nationwide, has unveiled expanded wellness benefits for its 12,000 hourly and salaried employees to further build upon a quality of life that is unparalleled in the restaurant industry. As part of these enhancements, First Watch is providing a complimentary annual membership to Calm – a top-tier app for sleep, meditation and relaxation – to all employees and up to five friends and family members as well as telemedicine services through CirrusMD that can connect all employees with a doctor in minutes, with no out-of-pocket expense.

"I'm always in awe of the grit, grace and gratitude that our teams show their customers, communities and each other, and with these resources, our hope is they'll remember to be just as kind to themselves, too," said Laura Sorensen, Chief People Officer at First Watch. "For 40 years, First Watch has been an employer of choice with a culture that listens, responds and meets our teams where they are with care and intention. Since many of these benefits may have traditionally been out of reach for many hourly employees in our industry or only offered to those enrolled in health insurance coverage, this is a meaningful step forward for us to demonstrate how we're living out our 'You First' commitment. We want to be there for all our teams, just as they are there for our customers every day."

All First Watch employees, regardless of their position or enrollment in the company's benefits plan, have access to these two new health benefits through CirrusMD and Calm. CirrusMD is a text-based virtual care platform that allows teams to place a call 24/7 with a doctor, including those specializing in mental health, at any time with no appointment necessary. First Watch's partnership with Calm – rated as the #1 app for meditation and sleep – complements this proactive approach to wellness by helping promote better sleep, reducing anxiety and developing mindfulness.

In anticipation of these announcements, First Watch enhanced its communications technology to ensure all employees, particularly those working in its restaurants, could easily access the newly expanded benefits and stay informed of other company-wide announcements. To do so, the concept partnered with goHappy, a leading expert in frontline employee engagement, to leverage its simple, app-free platform to better connect its workforce through timely messages and updates sent directly to their mobile devices. Moving forward, First Watch will implement the technology to enrich engagement, improve its onboarding experience and strengthen talent retention efforts.

Building on these people-centered enhancements, First Watch also launched a new learning series in January designed to foster personal and professional growth for its nearly 300 employees at its Bradenton-based Home Office along with its multi-unit restaurant leaders. Inspired by its Be A Better Human initiative, the series includes monthly in-person and online development sessions thoughtfully selected to elevate and inspire teams to thrive both in and outside of work.

"Our Home Office teams are dedicated to setting our operators up for success, so they can in turn provide amazing experiences to their customers and teams," said Sorensen. "With this new learning program, we're ensuring our 'You First' commitment extends to all of our Home Office employees, as well, by providing experiences for continued development that engage and enrich our teams' perspectives on work, play and life."

First Watch fosters a culture centered upon putting its employees first, a belief that permeates both its customer service and business decisions. This commitment has defined the concept's efforts to develop and engage its teams around a strong sense of purpose and teamwork, which, over the years, has garnered several prestigious awards. In 2022, First Watch was named a Top 100 Most Loved Workplace by Newsweek magazine – ranking as one of only four other restaurant companies – and recognized with ADP's coveted Culture at Work Award.

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