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First Watch Sails Into 2024

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
March 5, 2024
First Watch Sails Into 2024

First Watch has been around for over 40 years and is famous for being open from morning to early afternoon and a revolving menu that leans into seasonal ingredients. In recent years, the casual cafe – which derives its name from the nautical term for the first shift of the day – has made significant waves. The chain went public in 2021 and continues to drive consistent revenue and foot traffic – despite a stormy economic climate. We dove into the data to take a closer look at the consumer behavior behind First Watch’s success and understand where the chain could be heading in 2024 and beyond.

The Early Advantage

At First Watch, brunch and lunch join breakfast as the most important meals of the day. And while some of the chain’s competitors are open all day – or even all night – sticking to limited business hours has not steered the brand off course. Analysis of First Watch’s H2 2023 foot traffic compared to the wider breakfast-first category shows that First Watch’s monthly year-over-year (YoY) visits consistently outperformed the Breakfast, Coffee, Bakeries, and Dessert Shops space as a whole. 

Some of the chain’s success is due to its expanding store fleet, with visits during the last five months of 2023 up by double digits compared to the equivalent months in 2022. And the chain is likely to rise even further in 2024 and beyond, with CEO Christopher Tomasso seeing continued expansion on the horizon.

Indeed, looking at more recent data shows that First Watch’s growth is continuing even relative to the already strong 2023, with foot traffic to the chain up YoY and outperforming the wider Breakfast, Bakeries & Dessert Shops space every week of 2024 so far.

The Next Voyage

C.E.O. Tomasso is determined to stay “true to who we are and what we’ve done regardless of how big we get.” And one way First Watch has stayed true to its identity is by being attentive to the preferences of its target audience. When customers wanted cocktails as a way to unwind with friends over brunch – First Watch delivered. And location intelligence can help identify the next consumer trend to drive the brand’s continued success.

Trade Area Analysis of First Watch in Q4 2023 using the AGS: Behavior & Attitudes dataset revealed that “Food Label Readers”, “Organic Foodies”, and “Vegans” were overrepresented in the restaurant’s trade areas compared to the nationwide benchmark. This indicates that First Watch’s commitment to fresh ingredients resonates with clientele that prioritize a healthy diet. Meanwhile, the data also showed that these consumers were likely to be involved in various forms of exercise; “Fitness Fans”, “Joggers”, “Pilates People”, and “Weight Lifters” were also prevalent psychographic segments in First Watch’s trade area. 

This suggests that First Watch might consider exploring uncharted waters by adding smoothies or post-workout shakes to its menu, or by opening smaller-format locations in fitness centers to better serve its health-conscious audience.

Land Ho!

First Watch has enjoyed smooth sailing through a commitment to bringing diners a fresh take on breakfast, brunch, and lunch. As long as this ship stays anchored in its identity, First Watch should find that the wind is at its back for the foreseeable future. 

‍For updates and more data-driven dining insights, visit Placer.ai.

This blog includes data from Placer.ai Data Version 2.0, which implements improvements to our extrapolation capabilities, adds short visit monitoring, and enhances visit detection.

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