First Watch Leadership Conference

Celebrating 40 Years of Growth at Leadership Event


For the past three years, Bishop-McCann has had the privilege of working closely with First Watch, a leading breakfast, brunch, and lunch restaurant chain. Continuing this partnership, our team was tasked with planning their annual First Watch Leadership Conference, a cornerstone event for executives, vendor partners, general managers, and franchise owners. The purpose of the meeting was to bring everyone together to understand the changes and upcoming improvements to the brand. This year’s conference marked a significant milestone as it celebrated First Watch’s 40th anniversary, making it a special occasion that required meticulous planning and execution

First Watch Leadership Conference

With 790 attendees meeting at the enchanting Disney’s Coronado Springs in Orlando, Florida, the client sought to celebrate achievements and show appreciation to attendees while surprising and delighting them throughout the week. First Watch also wanted an emphasis on education, allowing attendees to learn new skills and understand valuable insights into First Watch’s future that could then be implemented in their own restaurants.   

Despite having planned this conference in previous years, the leadership event still posed challenges. Aligning with the internal team on the sponsorship program and streamlining communication with attendees and sponsors were the initial hurdles. Additionally, managing understaffed hotel outlets due to lasting effects from the pandemic and navigating space constraints for the growing group were identified challenges. But our team was ready to overcome all of these hurdles to create an unforgettable experience for our client and the attendees.  


Over the six-month planning period, our team – consisting of creative, production, sourcing, attendee experience managers, and program managers – worked closely with the client through bi-weekly calls. The first aspects we began working through were the construction of the registration website and the sponsorship program. Additionally, we implemented new technology for on-site registration, integrating on-demand badge printing. Our team also incorporated digital screens to enhance First Watch’s overall branding throughout the event, and we enhanced the attendee experience through interactive elements.  

The following interactive elements were included in this leadership event:  

  • A captivating 360 photo booth provided attendees with a unique and immersive experience, capturing memorable moments from all angles at the awards evening.  
  • During the 80s-themed lunch, a roaming ring light added a touch of glamour, enhancing the vibrant atmosphere as participants enjoyed the nostalgic setting.  
  • At registration, a visually striking ribbon wall not only served as an eye-catching backdrop but also doubled as a creative element by attaching ribbons to attendees’ name badges, adding a personalized and festive flair.  
  • Throughout the event, various engaging activities, such as putt-putt golf and bag games, were strategically placed near vendor booths, creating a lively and interactive atmosphere.  
  • A special touch was added with a legacy story photo booth, featuring a small recording room where attendees could share personal videos about their unique “legacies” at the event, enriching the overall experience and fostering a sense of connection among participants. 

As the previously discussed challenges arose during planning, our team came up with collaborative solutions with the client to overcome them. To address the space constraints, we worked closely with the hotel’s convention services manager. With their help, we were able to secure additional space, creating more room for the growing group of guests. In addition, we continued to collaborate with our client on ways to enhance the sponsorship program and registration/communication process. With their partnership, we were able to implement a high-tech, on-site registration process, resulting in a better attendee experience.  

Aside from addressing these challenges, our team handled numerous other event elements. We sourced the guest rooms and the meeting spaces for the program, along with negotiating contract concessions on behalf of First Watch. Our production team handled the creation of the main stage and all breakout rooms, in addition to managing the awards dinner’s entertainment and the keynote speaker. On top of registration and communication for attendees and sponsors, the team also managed the event app, and we produced the creative for the print and digital assets utilized.  

fireside chat

From a logistics standpoint, Bishop-McCann addressed a multitude of aspects. We managed the guest rooms, meeting space sets, food and beverages, off-site events, planning visits, ground transportation, décor, awards dinner, sponsorship prospectus and exposures, printed materials and branding elements, and gifting.  

To emphasize First Watch’s appreciation of their guests, attendees received gifts each day of the program. On the first day, there was swag at registration, including a welcome tote, a conference shirt, and an embroidered jacket. Next, they received free Epcot tickets and Disney gift cards, along with custom pins that carried out their nature-based theme. Finally, attendees were gifted with books written by the keynote speaker and customized coffee mugs. 

The event seamlessly embodied the theme, “Legacy – Celebrating 40 Years of Growth,” with meticulous integration into every facet. The design vision focused on nature, with an emphasis on trees, roots, and other organic elements. This year’s leadership conference embraced the theme of “Legacy,” not only as a commemoration of four decades in business but also as the central message and overarching tone for managers: “How will you leave your legacy?” The symbolic motif of an oak tree was chosen to visually represent this theme, illustrating the concept of growth and the profound impact a single manager (akin to an oak tree) can have on their teams (depicted as acorns) that may, in turn, grow into their own significant entities. To convey this narrative, a palette of natural, earthy colors and oak tree illustrations was thoughtfully curated. 

Their color scheme was utilized throughout (in elements such as linens, wooden tables, greenery, and décor), creating a unified and visually appealing environment. Additionally, this theme was carried through in all digital and printed event materials. Aligning with their theme, the conference gave back by donating to the Arbor Day Tree Foundation, planting a tree in honor of each attendee. We also incorporated an 80s-themed lunch, featuring a taco bar and a beer/wine bar for attendees to enjoy. 


Thanks to our team’s hard work and close collaboration with First Watch, this year’s event was a resounding success. The client even expressed that this leadership event was their best yet, marking a notable achievement for both the client and Bishop-McCann.  

Though there were countless memorable moments throughout the conference, a few in particular stood out. The keynote speaker, whose message aligned with their industry, and the panel with First Watch’s CEO were very well received. There were also various elements that touched on the “surprise and delight” that the client wished to achieve, such as the fun gifting elements implemented each day. Plus, extra delight was created during the 80s-themed lunch, allowing attendees to dress in themed costumes while enjoying tacos and drinks, and attendees loved the 360-photo booth we utilized during the awards dinner, creating lasting memories.  

Along with these standout aspects, there were several factors that contributed to the event’s success. An excellent keynote speaker and fireside chat, high-quality food and beverage offerings, and excellent breakout sessions all played a role. Notably, the sponsorship program raised $100,000 more than in the previous year. 

smiling attendees

Additionally, responses from the post-event survey reflected high satisfaction levels among attendees. The awards celebration, keynote speaker, fireside chat, clean and comfortable guestrooms, and breakout session offerings received strong, positive ratings. 

The success of the First Watch Leadership Conference can be attributed to meticulous planning, effective collaboration, and a commitment to delivering an outstanding experience. The conference not only met but exceeded the expectations of both the client and the attendees, setting a high standard for future events. As the partnership continues to evolve, Bishop-McCann remains dedicated to ensuring that each conference surpasses the previous, leaving a lasting legacy for First Watch and its stakeholders. 

From the challenges we overcame for this year’s conference and lessons learned along the way, we can’t wait to implement that knowledge for next year’s event at Gaylord Palms and Resort in Orlando and create even more JOY!