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Chris Tomasso, CEO of First Watch, on the growth of the casual-dining brand amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Don’t believe the headlines: The breakfast segment is not failing, says First Watch CEO Chris Tomasso

The family-dining brand has opened 18 restaurants since the pandemic began and plans to continue growing

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There have been many stories about the breakfast segment’s decline during COVID-19. Traditional breakfast-segment leaders from Starbucks to Dunkin’ to McDonald’s have seen downturns in sales, but family-dining chain First Watch wants the industry to know there’s more to the story.

“There are two narratives here and I wish people would show our side,” said Chris Tomasso, CEO of First Watch.

The University Park, Fla.-based chain is suburban-heavy in its franchise locations, giving it an advantage over quick-service chains that customers normally frequent on their morning commute or in major cities with public transportation, reasoned Tomasso.

Plus, Tomasso stressed that First Watch is an all-day restaurant chain, and one of the fastest growing, according to Nation’s Restaurant News’ Top 200 data.

The brand has seen steady sales, and 18 new units open, since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March of this year. That can be attributed to loyal customers and an investment in technology said Tomasso.

Before the pandemic, customers had to order for curbside pickup via the restaurant phone. The brand was in the process of rolling out the mobile app for months, but it just so happened to coincide with a virus that forced everyone to rely on technology which was already a leg up over prior business at First Watch.

First Watch grew its off-premise sales by 500%, but the main source of revenue was and still is dine-in. Around 70% of First Watch’s business remains dine-in revenue to this day.

Listen to our conversation and learn why Tomasso thinks First Watch will survive and continue to grow.

Contact Holly at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @hollypetre

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