First Watch didn’t start in Cincinnati, but it was pretty close.

According to co-founder and Executive Chairman Ken Pendery, First Watch opened in Cincinnati after successful launches in California and Florida. Pendery and his brother Paul grew up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, and wanted to bring First Watch to their home.

“There’s a little flair, a little flavor in Cincinnati that you don’t find elsewhere,” he says. “I think they’re a wonderful community.”

First Watch opened its first Cincinnati location in Kenwood in 1991 and has only grown since. Today, the Tristate has 12 restaurants that touch all parts of the region, from Anderson to Harrison Greene and Liberty Township to Florence, Kentucky.

“We move behind our management, we don’t move behind location. They pick where they want to live and we move behind,” says Pendery. “Cincinnati is growing more… so there’s a lot of opportunity to building and growing today that probably didn’t exist 10, 15 years ago.”

What hasn’t changed is First Watch’s commitment to the community, particularly in the Cincinnati area. Almost every location sponsors a local baseball or soccer team. Restaurants also support art festivals, other teams or even large events like the Flying Pig Marathon.

“We support the local things that go on that don’t always happen in every community but certainly do in Cincinnati,” adds Pendery.

Another way First Watch looks to incorporate Cincinnati flavor is through its menu. Five times a year, First Watch restaurants change up their seasonal menu to reflect the time of year. “Our culinary department is great about rotating in specials that can be local and can be seasonal. We use seasonal ingredients a lot of times and I think it keeps a freshness to our menu and a creative side to our menu,” says Pendery. For example, the Tristate’s current fall menu includes items like braised short rib benedict and butternut squash bisque.

But a local favorite that Pendery can’t get enough of? “I’d say if we could find more things like goetta we would do it in a second,” he says.

In addition, much of the restaurants’ local flavor comes from the people working them. “Everything we can do that there’s local flair to it is great. Most of that flair is in the people,” he says. “We always go behind the great people we attract and they’ll expand the market and their menu from there.”

More than 28 years after the first Cincinnati restaurant was opened, Pendery remains proud of First Watch’s Cincinnati connection.

“First Watch in Cincinnati is extremely proud to be there. We’re proud of the people, we’re proud of the menu, we’re very proud of our location. We’re happy to be there,” he says.


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