Experience, accomplishment, and vision. Three words that describe our management team, and their track record of success and intelligent growth.
Kenneth L. Pendery, Jr.
Kenneth L. Pendery, Jr. has been a key leader of First Watch Restaurants, Inc. for over 25 years. He has been instrumental in evolving the brand from a simple concept into a successful, multimillion dollar enterprise. Today, in his role as CEO, Ken ensures that the company’s principles are upheld daily. He leads the management team and collaborates with the board of directors to provide strategic leadership, establish long-term goals, operational strategies and actionable plans and policies for continued growth and success. He is a restaurant-industry veteran with extensive executive experience, including the creation of several restaurant concepts throughout his career. Ken majored in Finance at Indiana University. He is an operator at heart and on most days, can be found in First Watch restaurants speaking with employees and greeting guests first hand.
Christopher A. Tomasso
A 20-year veteran of the restaurant industry, Chris Tomasso manages the marketing, culinary and operations of the First Watch brand. Chris led First Watch’s complete re-branding effort, which included a new brand positioning platform, new restaurant prototype and new company logo and tagline. Chris previously served as Vice President of Marketing for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., where he handled the company’s brand development, advertising, marketing and public relations. Chris also spent more than 10 years with Hard Rock Café International, one of the world’s most recognizable brands. There, he served as Vice President of Worldwide Marketing. Chris holds a degree in Journalism with a specialty in advertising and public relations from the University of Central Florida. He was named a Top Private Company CMO in 2012 by ExecRank and currently serves on the Marketing Advisory Board for Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry and the Board of Directors for the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executive Group. He has also served on the Board of Directors for the University of Central Florida’s Alumni Association.
Chief Financial Officer
A recognized leader in the restaurant industry, Paul joined First Watch’s team in 2013 after serving as the executive vice president for the National Restaurant Association, the largest foodservice trade association in the world. As chief financial officer for First Watch, he oversees the financial strategy and management of the award-winning restaurant company. Prior to his work with the National Restaurant Association, Paul held senior finance and accounting positions with Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and Planet Hollywood International. He is a certified management accountant and holds a bachelor of arts in economics from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. He also serves as an advisory board member for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Food and Beverage Leadership Exchange and the Restaurant Leadership Conference
Chief People Officer
As the Chief People Officer for First Watch, Laura Sorensen oversees all aspects of the employee experience, including staffing and people development, employee relations, diversity and strategic planning. She joined the First Watch team in 2016 with years of experience working in Human Resources for prominent brands. Most recently, she worked as a member of the executive team as the senior Vice President of Human Resources for Darden’s LongHorn Steakhouse, where she oversaw all Human Resources priorities and initiatives for nearly 500 restaurants and 30,000 employees. Before working with Darden, Laura served as the Director of Human Resources at Chico’s and as the strategic business partner to White House / Black Market brand president and executive team for all brand business functions. She also served on the Board of Directors for the Orlando chapter of the Adult Literacy League. Laura earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and an MBA with a specialization in Human Resources management from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.
Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer
With more than 20 years of experience in Real Estate and Development, Eric Hartman leads Development for the First Watch brand, which includes Strategic Planning, Site Selection, Real Estate, Construction and Facilities management. Eric previously served as President and Founder of a commercial, residential and mixed-use development organization, SEVA Development. Before that, for more than 10 years Eric, led many development-related functions for Bloomin’ Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s and Bonefish Grill. His roles with Bloomin’ Brands included Vice President of Development Strategy and then Group Vice President of Real Estate and Development, where he led the team responsible for site selection, letters of intent, lease negotiations and development management for new growth and relocations domestically. Eric remains on the Board of Directors of SEVA Development and is the Board Chairman for Horizon Homes, a growing single family home-builder in the Tampa Bay area. Eric is a registered Professional Engineer and graduated with Honors from the University of South Florida, where he earned a degree in Civil Engineering. Eric played on the Men’s Tennis Team during his time at USF, where he was named to the all-conference team his sophomore year. Born and raised in Lakeland, FL, Eric, his wife Vicki, and their three children reside in Tampa.
Vice President of Culinary Strategy
After graduating at the top of his class from Johnson & Wales in 2005, Shane worked in fine dining for brands like the Ritz-Carlton in Miami Beach and Tampa’s Café Ponte. He joined Front Burner Brands concept The Melting Pot in 2007, where he helped the company set the Guinness World Record for Largest Cheese Fondue Set while working as manager of culinary development. He also served as the restaurant’s director of food and beverage and ultimately corporate chef for the Front Burner restaurant group, where he helped develop menu items and opened restaurants around the world. In 2014, Shane was honored on FSR Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list for his culinary accomplishments. Since joining First Watch as corporate chef that same year, he has shifted his focus to breakfast, brunch and lunch. Shane has revamped First Watch’s menu and introduced a successful Fresh Juice Program, and he continues to keep things fresh with innovative seasonal menu features.