Each year, we welcome our leaders to a special conference held at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida. We know that First Watch wouldn’t be successful without the hardworking managers and leaders that run our restaurants, so we take this annual opportunity to celebrate their achievements. It’s our way of thanking our teams for their daily contributions to our ongoing successes.
We started this year’s First Watch Leadership Conference with a Lip Sync Showdown. Yes, you read that right – a lip-sync battle ala Jimmy Fallon. Ten surprisingly talented leaders, from Directors to General Managers to Franchise Operators, walked onstage and gave it their best shot – mouthing tunes that ranged from Whitney Houston to ACDC. The crowd went wild! Our first-place winner, Vanessa Hertenstein who represents several of our First Watch Ohio locations, won a cruise for two to the Caribbean – and an impressive Lip Sync Champion belt, complete with rhinestones and glitter.
One of our most memorable moments at the Leadership Conference is when we recognize our Employee of the Year. For 2018, we nominated our traveling trainer, Eduardo Rios, who has opened more than 50 First Watch restaurants! Eddie is willing to jump on a plane at a moment’s notice to open new restaurants across the country. His dedication and knowledge of First Watch is unmatched. And there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Eddie received his recognition in front of his wife, Carmen – and more than 450 of his raving fans!
We invited Colette Carlson as one of our keynote speakers. She is a high-energy, nationally recognized speaker whose message is about the importance of connecting with others – a concept that is more and more difficult in our fast-paced world. Colette hilariously acted out the pressure managers face to “get it all done” each day. While her skit was tongue-in-cheek, it was also a reminder of how hard it is to open and run a restaurant every day – from ordering product, completing safety checks, taking inventory, developing employees, and of course, the daily execution of great food and memorable customer experiences. Colette’s message was a reminder to stop and smell the coffee from time to time.
Speaking of coffee, we ended our conference with an update on First Watch’s partnership with the female farmers of Huila, Colombia, who grow our Project Sunrise Coffee. We invited Marleny Arambulo Monje from the hillsides of Colombia to share her story and the mission of Mujeres en Café (women in coffee) to improve their farm equipment and enhance their community schools with new computers for the next generation of coffee growers.
This year’s conference was an incredible way for our leaders to spend time together, with old friends and new, learning and growing as First Watch moves forward. After all, we’ve got the best people in the business!