To establish the animal body plan, embryos link the external epidermis to the internal digestive tract. In Caenorhabditis elegans, this linkage is achieved by the arcade cells, which form an epithelial bridge between the foregut and epidermis, but little is known about how development of these three epithelia is coordinated temporally. The arcade cell epithelium is generated after the epidermis and digestive tract epithelia have matured, ensuring that both organs can withstand the mechanical stress of embryo elongation; mistiming of epithelium formation leads to defects in morphogenesis. Using a combination of genetic, bioinformatic, and imaging approaches, we find that temporal regulation of the arcade cell epithelium is mediated by the pioneer transcription factor and master regulator PHA-4/FoxA, followed by the cytoskeletal regulator and kinesin ZEN-4/MKLP1 and the polarity protein PAR-6. We show that PHA-4 directly activates mRNA expression of a broad cohort of epithelial genes, including junctional factor dlg-1 Accumulation of DLG-1 protein is delayed by ZEN-4, acting in concert with its binding partner CYK-4/MgcRacGAP. Our structure-function analysis suggests that nuclear and kinesin functions are dispensable, whereas binding to CYK-4 is essential, for ZEN-4 function in polarity. Finally, PAR-6 is necessary to localize polarity proteins such as DLG-1 within adherens junctions and at the apical surface, thereby generating arcade cell polarity. Our results reveal that the timing of a landmark event during embryonic morphogenesis is mediated by the concerted action of four proteins that delay the formation of an epithelial bridge until the appropriate time. In addition, we find that mammalian FoxA associates with many epithelial genes, suggesting that direct regulation of epithelial identity may be a conserved feature of FoxA factors and a contributor to FoxA function in development and cancer.