Advent backs breakfast chain First Watch, as restaurants attract buyers

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Advent International has agreed to acquire a majority stake in breakfast cafe operator First Watch Restaurants from Freeman Spogli & Co. The target's management team will keep a stake in the company.

First Watch, founded in 1983 and based in University Park, Florida, operates more than 300 locations mostly in Florida, Texas, Ohio, Colorado and Arizona. The target emphasizes on providing a unique farm-to-table experience through a variety of healthy, traditional food with a focus on fresh ingredients. In addition to traditional breakfast items such as omelettes and pancakes, First Watch offers avocado toast, granola bowls and power wraps. Along with its namesake, First Watch owns the Egg & I, the Good Egg and Bread & Co. brands. Jefferies, North Point Advisors and Morgan Lewis & Bockius are advising the sellers. Weil Gotshal & Manges is representing Advent.

"First Watch is strongly aligned with trends toward healthier eating and better ingredients, and positioned to not only grow within existing markets but also to expand the unique concept to guests in new geographies," says Advent managing director Tricia Patrick. Financial terms on Advent's investment were not disclosed. Advent recently acquired acquired pasta sauce producer Rao's Specialty Foods.

Demands for fresh and natural ingredients are attracting investors to the restaurant sector. For instance, in 2016, Larsen MacColl Partners backed Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar. Other recent restaurant deals include: Curry Up Now's acquisition of Tava Kitchen; Oak Hill's purchase of Checkers Drive-In; and Roark Capital's investment in Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q. NRD Capital raised its second fund to focus on restaurant deals.

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