Reichard family sells Santa Barbara County sites to Yum! Brands
Every day at lunch, a large crowd stands outside the Habit Burger Grill on State Street, eager to enjoy a Charburger, chicken or veggie burger (complete with avocado), or get a malt or shake. Maybe a salad. Lines might get long, but no one seems to mind the wait, and customers appear to be from all ages.
The popular, locally owned restaurant has been in business for more than 40 years with sites that include where it all began — the original Habit Burger Grill in Old Town Goleta. From there, it grew over the decades into today’s chain with 300 locations in 14 states.
Now one era is ending, and a new chapter begins.
Brent Reichard, the founder of Habit Burger Grill, and his brother, Bruce Reichard, are retiring from the hamburger business. They’re selling the Reichard family’s eight remaining Habit Burger Grill restaurants in Santa Barbara County (which include the busy State Street and Old Town Goleta locations) to Yum! Brands.
On March 1, Yum! Brands will take over the operations.
“I will miss working with all of our incredible team members and am so proud of all their hard work and commitment to take care of our customers every day,” Brent Reichard said in a statement. “I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many great people and really value what a great journey this has been.”
He said the decision to sell was a difficult one but explained it was never an option for his or Bruce’s children to take over the business.
“My retirement signals the end of an amazing era,” he said. “This was a family decision, and we know this is what’s best for the business.”
He added that he believes the restaurant’s core values will continue and that he is closing five decades of ownership with a lot of pride.
The News-Press couldn’t reach the Reichard brothers for further comment Wednesday afternoon, but a news release told their story, and it starts with Brent getting his first job at an Old Town Goleta restaurant called The Hamburger Habit in 1976. Four years later, the Reichard brothers bought the burger stand.
In 1996, Brent Reichard started the second Habit location in Ventura, and the chain grew to 24 locations in California during the next 10 years. Mr. Reichard was the CEO, and Dave Nordahl was the president.
In 2007, the Reichard family sold the majority interest in the Habit Burger Grill to Karp Reilly, a private equity group, but the sale didn’t include the Santa Barbara County sites. So the Reichard family continued to own and operate them.
Brent Reichard and Mr. Nordahl continued in their roles with Habit Burger Grill until 2009, and they remained on the board of directors until 2014, the year that Habit Restaurants launched an IPO and became a publicly traded company.
Early this year, Yum! Brands bought Habit Restaurants, and the Reichards brothers’ sale of the Santa Barbara County sites ends a history of local ownership of what became an institution for a daily lunch crowd who loves burgers.