Yum! Brands struck the first major restaurant acquisition of 2020, announcing Monday it has entered into a definitive agreement to purchase The Habit Restaurants, Inc. for $375 million, or $14 per share in cash.

The Habit Burger Group, founded 1969 in California, has more than 270 restaurants in 13 states (California, Arizona, Utah, New Jersey, Florida, Idaho, Virginia, Nevada, Washington, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina) as well as seven international restaurants. The price is about 33 percent over The Habit’s closing share price of $10.51 on January 3.

“We’ve emerged from our three-year transformation stronger and in a better position to accelerate the growth of our existing brands and leverage our scale to unlock value from strategic acquisition,” said Yum! CEO David Gibbs, who took over for Greg Creed to start the New Year. “As a fast-casual concept with strong unit economics, The Habit Burger Grill is a fantastic addition to the Yum! family and has significant untapped growth potential in the U.S. and internationally.”

The deal gives Yum! a fast casual to join quick-serve giants Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. The company said it intends to fund the transaction using cash on hand and available borrowing capacity under its credit facilities. It remains subject to approval by The Habit Burger Grill’s stockholders, and is expected to close by the end of the second quarter.

Following purchase, The Habit, which went public in 2014, will remain based in Irvine, California (Yum! operates out of Louisville, Kentucky), and continue to be managed by brand president and CEO Russell Bendel and CFO Ira Fils. Bendel will report directly to Gibbs.

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“The transaction is a win-win because it allows us to offer an exciting new investment to our franchisees and to expand an award-winning, trend-forward brand through the power of Yum!’s unmatched scale and strengths in franchising, purchasing and brand-building,” Gibbs said.

From fiscal 2009 to 2018, The Habit Burger Grill grew its corporate restaurant average-unit volumes by 49.9 percent from about $1.2 million to $1.9 million, respectively. In the same span, its total units have expanded at a 28.4 percent compound annual growth rate, the company said.

In the third quarter that ended September 24, total revenue increased 12.1 percent to $117.3 million for The Habit, compared to $104.6 million in the year-ago period.

Company-operated same-store sales hiked 3.1 percent. Net income came in at $1 million, or 5 cents per diluted share, versus a net loss of $600,000 last year. Adjusted EBITDA was $10.6 million compared to $9.6 million in Q3 2018.

The company opened six corporate units and closed three in the Orlando, Florida, market. As of September 24, there were 237 company-run locations and 28 franchised/licensed stores (a number that excludes eight licensed restaurants in Santa Barbara Country, California, the company is not entitled to royalties for).

Also in Q3, The Habit upped the total number of drive thrus in its system to 51 and installed self-ordering kiosks in its 20th location. Four of the restaurants opened in Q3 featured drive thrus. The brand was on pace to debut 29–35 stores in 2020 before the sale. That included 12–15 franchises, which would have more than doubled its franchise growth from 2019. Yum!’s system reached 98 percent franchised in 2018.

The Habit is known for its open kitchens, outdoor patios and interiors enhanced with natural light, polished stone, and hardwood accents. This has led to a balanced daypart mix of about 50 percent lunch and 50 percent dinner.

In the past couple of years, it has also introduced online ordering, a mobile app, kiosks, and drive thrus. The brand’s menu features a chargrilled preparation technique—cooked over an open flame—to deliver a variety of burgers, chicken, tuna, and steak served in sandwiches and salads, which are made-to-order using fresh ingredients.

“We’re proud these and other actions have made The Habit Burger Grill an attractive candidate for a transaction of this kind,” Bendel said in a statement. “On behalf of The Habit Burger Grill Board of Directors, this transaction represents an exciting new chapter to strengthen and significantly grow The Habit Burger Grill by leveraging Yum! Brands’ global scale, resources and franchising capabilities. We’re confident the agreement delivers immediate value to The Habit Burger Grill shareholders and will greatly benefit our beloved brand, team members, franchisees and loyal guests for many years to come.”

At the end of Q3, Yum! had 23,435 KFCs (4,048 in the U.S.); 18,532 Pizza Huts (7,390 domestic); and 7,191 Taco Bells (6,665 U.S.). That totaled 49,158 global restaurants, including 18,103 stateside.

Fast Food, Finance, Story, The Habit Burger