Heartline Fitness


Case Study — First Watch Restaurants’ Corporate Headquarters

First Watch's corporate fitness center

By Kelly Spivey

  • FreeMotion Reflex treadmills
  • Nautilus cable machines
  • Stairmaster Gauntlet
  • Stairmaster HIIT rower
  • TRX Training Zone

“You first.”

It’s more than a polite concession — it’s a creed. It’s about doing everything possible to deliver the perfect customer experience. In our case, it’s the extra little details we put into the perfect fitness installation — electrical outlet placement, ordering one less treadmill to save space, or installing a neon sign that says “rise and grind.” When you place your audience’s goals ahead of your own, you find there’s plenty of common ground for everyone to stand on.

The folks at First Watch Restaurants get the “You First” mentality, too; after all, it’s literally the name of their service philosophy. But their plates are the kind topped with pancakes, not the ones on a squat rack. 

First Watch is the hottest restaurant chain in America. Six years ago they had just over 100 restaurants. Now, there’s over 425 that stretch as far North as New Jersey and as far West as Phoenix. 

First Watch is headquartered in the Tampa metro area, America’s unofficial chain restaurant nexus. They know that superior service and eats means there’s no room for compromise on quality. They apply that mindset everywhere — from their kitchens without heat lamps or deep fryers, to their new, modern corporate headquarters.

The new HQ is an impressive building that includes a fully operational cafeteria, modern office suites and breakout rooms — even a dog station for pet owners to bring in their furry friends for most of the work week. And, of course, an adjacent fitness center to replace their employees’ existing gym membership.

It’s not enough to throw some equipment into a room and call it a gym. It’s about creating an experience that’s valuable to your employees’ health.

“A lot of thought went into making the campus a selling point and an amenity,” said Nathan Zimmer, First Watch’s Director of Construction. “We wanted a place where people would enjoy coming into work every day.”

I’ve known Nathan for a few years now through a local athletics club, and already had a pretty good understanding that First Watch wouldn’t compromise on quality.

It was finally First Watch’s turn to be “first.”

Putting Employees First

Installations move smoothly when a client knows what they want. Many of the corporate heads at First Watch are avid fitness fanatics — marathoners, triathletes, and competitive swimmers round out many of their office roles. So, we immediately knew the equipment would be used by both gym newbies and veterans alike. 

Like all our designs, this was a thorough collaboration from start to finish. But Nathan trusted me to be the gym design expert, so there were very few upfront stipulations or caveats. However, we knew two things heading into the planning phase:

  1. First Watch wanted commercial gym equipment they could find in any other gym.
  2. The ultimate goal was to benefit employees, so that they wouldn’t have any need for an external gym membership.

We knew treadmills would be important to place, and I would typically place them next to a facility’s windows. But the fitness center’s windows face the sun, and adding heavily used cardio equipment in the middle of the Florida sun area would make jogging even more uncomfortable than it already is. Ultimately, it was an exception that elevated the space, rather than hindered it.

Stairmaster Gauntlet and FreeMotion Reflex treadmills at First Watch Corporate HQ

Virtual fitness is an awesome addition to any gym, which is why we added a few Peloton bikes to face the exterior wall. Fortunately, one of First Watch’s shareholders was gracious enough to purchase a Mirror for those who wanted a guided, virtual workout experience out of the saddle. 

Peloton bikes and Stairmaster HIIT Rower at First Watch Corporate HQ

Functional fitness options are now a shift in expectations, not a trend. These options, TRX for example, can be used across a wide range of experience levels, and take up minimal space with their modulated storage options.

Battle ropes and TRX system at First Watch Corporate HQ
Again, a welcoming fitness space is all about the details. In this case, we added a few small features throughout the area to elevate the facility’s modernity. A minor dividing wall sections cardio from free weights, establishing a clear tone to each zone within the fitness center.
And, of course, who doesn’t appreciate a little motivational message in pink neon? This one’s courtesy of First Watch themselves.
"Rise & Grind" at First Watch Corporate HQ

What Our Client Thinks About The Final Result

“Kelly and the Heartline Fitness team were very accommodating with our construction process. She was very professional and very quick to reply when we had questions. Most importantly, our new facility is world-class. We never wanted for anything, and we never felt like we had to compromise anything. It always felt like Heartline Fitness took care of us.”

Nathan Zimmer
Director of Construction, First Watch Restaurants

Powered by Pancakes

It’s not enough to throw some equipment into a room and call it a gym. What’s more important creating an experience that’s valuable to your employees’ health.

“When I walk into that gym, I’m impressed,” Nathan said. “We’re very lucky as a company — I don’t know how else to put that into words.”

For First Watch, it’s all about “you first.” We at Heartline Fitness couldn’t agree more. 

So, who’s next?

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