First Watch to Shutter Most Stores for Now

Amid health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bradenton, Fla.-based breakfast-and-lunch chain First Watch has temporarily closed all of its corporate-owned stores.

CEO Chris Tomasso posted a letter on the company’s web site outlining the reasons for decision.

“Our people are our most important asset, and their physical safety and health, as well as their mental wellbeing, are always our priority. I carry that responsibility, and it is not something I take lightly,” Tomasso wrote. "Therefore, we have made the difficult decision to temporarily close 100% of our company-owned restaurants beginning Monday, April 13, 2020."

According to a company spokesperson, the company owns 309 stores. Some of the remaining 73 franchised stores' owners also chose to close temporarily, leaving 39 First Watch franchise restaurants open for pickup and delivery at this point.

Additionally, Tomasso listed a series of ways the company plans to help employees during the crisis, including continuing managers’ existing healthcare benefits, covering out-of-pocket costs, co-pays and deductibles related to COVID-19, and providing telemedicine benefits for its employees and their families.

Tomasso also committed to “making our restaurant managers financially whole”  through a bonus when they return to close the gap that government benefits did not cover.

The CEO said that cost reductions and senior-leadership pay cuts through 2020 will offset the cost of the benefits.

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