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Fast-Growing Breakfast Chain Plans to Open Nearly 60 New Stores As It Rakes In Sales

The popular chain opened dozens of restaurants in 2023—and it may one-up itself in 2024.

To say that First Watch has been on an expansion tear lately would be a major understatement. The popular breakfast chain has opened dozens of restaurants annually for the past few years, recently surpassing the 500-unit milestone this past November. Now that 2024 has arrived, the company has no intention of slowing down its rapid growth pipeline.

First Watch, which is known for its high-quality ingredients and rotating seasonal menus, released its earnings results for the fourth quarter of 2023 and the full year on March 5. The company revealed in a subsequent earnings call that it opened 51 new restaurants across 19 states in 2023, boosting its total footprint to 524 locations.

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First Watch may one-up itself this year as it plans to open between 51 and 57 additional net new restaurants in 2024, according to Chief Financial Officer Mel Hope. That means the chain should end the year with around 580 locations.

First Watch restaurant
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

First Watch's expansion announcement comes on the heels of a successful year for the chain. It raked in $1.1 billion in sales in 2023—a 20.6% increase from the prior year—and saw a 7.6% increase in same-store sales from 2022. While customer traffic did drop by 1.3% in the fourth quarter because of a decline in takeout and delivery orders, traffic for the full year increased slightly by 0.2%.

Thanks to all the new restaurant openings in 2023, First Watch's total location count has also increased a whopping 42% since 2019. First Watch CEO and President Christopher Tomasso described 2024 as a "fantastic year" and said the company is excited for even more growth moving forward.

This year's openings will include 43 to 47 new company-owned restaurants and nine to 11 franchise restaurants. First Watch also plans to shutter one company-owned restaurant, though it didn't reveal which one. Hope said that the openings will be "heavily weighted" in the second half of 2024.

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The chain currently operates restaurants in 29 states, with most of its locations concentrated in the South, East, and Midwest. However, Tomasso announced during the earnings call that the company is now planning to expand to Las Vegas and New England for the first time. He said that the long-term potential for restaurant openings in both markets is "significant."

Tomasso added, "We are already deep into negotiations for multiple locations in both markets and expect a material percentage of our growth to come from these two areas in the coming years."

Customers who want to stay updated on new First Watch openings in their area can sign up for email alerts through the chain's website.

Zoe Strozewski
Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe