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July 16, 2014

California burger chain to open 25 stores here

Journal staff reporter

Photo courtesy of The Habitat Restaurants [enlarge]
This Habit Burger Grill is in El Segundo, California. PBUH Holdings LLC is looking for restaurant sites in the Puget Sound area.

Carnivores waiting for the famous In-N-Out Burger to open a restaurant here may be in for an even bigger treat. Another California-based burger chain — The Habit Burger Grill — is planning to open 25 stores in the Puget Sound area over the next 12 years.

Haven't heard of The Habit? Readers of Consumer Reports magazine just named it the best burger in America. In-N-Out was a close second, followed by Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which has several stores in the Puget Sound area.

John Phillips, vice president of franchising for The Habit, said a California family who are big fans of the chain are moving to Seattle to operate the restaurants as a franchisee. The enterprise will be led by brothers Abdullah Jafrey and Tauseef Razaque under the name PBUH Holdings LLC.

Phillips said the family owns and operates 55 restaurants on the East and West coasts, but none in Seattle. He said the brothers are looking at sites in King, Snohomish, Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties, and have secured a “preferred” real estate broker. He said franchisees can use whoever they want for design and construction as long as they follow the chain's guidelines.

No sites have been selected.

Phillips said it's unlikely the brothers will open here this year because of the time it takes to build and open a restaurant.

The Habit's website says its restaurants range from 1,800 to 2,700 square feet, and are located in “end cap” positions or free-standing buildings in neighborhood and regional shopping centers. Phillips said most new stores range from 2,300 to 2,700 square feet.

Phillips said a lot of Californians who have moved here will be familiar with The Habit.

The website says the company is offering franchises in much of the U.S., except California, Arizona and Utah. Phillips said PBUH has the Puget Sound territory, but other parts of Washington are available.

The Irvine, California-based chain plans to open its first East Coast location in August in New Jersey. It will be company-owned, but others on the East Coast will be a mix of company-owned and franchised, Phillips said. The initial focus will be in Mid-Atlantic states.

The company earlier this year signed a franchise agreement for 15 restaurants in the Las Vegas area.

The Habit makes char-grilled burgers, but also has items you won't see at In-N-Out: grilled albacore, marinated tri-tip, chicken sandwiches and salads.

The first restaurant opened in 1969 in Goleta, a small beach town in Southern California near Santa Barbara. The company has been expanding in recent years and expects to open its 100th location this fall.

In-N-Out operates about 300 stores, mostly in California but also in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Texas. Its website shows no plans for the Seattle market, but local support has been growing: a Facebook page called “We want In-N-Out Burger in Seattle!” has more than 5,000 “likes.”


Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.

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