Pegasus Foods has confirmed it has signed an exclusive franchise contract to bring The Habit Burger Grill to the UK and the Netherlands.

The agreement, which was flagged up by MCA in September, will see the opening of the first two Habit Burger Grill restaurants in the suburbs of London in 2018 followed by a roll out of the brand across the UK.

Pegasus Foods, which is led by Phil Blackland, the former Cabana and Tragus director, is aiming to have 30 Habit Burger Grill restaurants in operation within the first five years of trading.

The new franchise agreement marks The Habit Burger Grill’s first international agreement in Europe.

The Habit Burger Grill, established in Santa Barbara, California in 1969, was voted by American consumers as America’s best tasting burger and positions itself within the better burger market as a fast casual restaurant that “uniquely combines chargrilling over an open flame to create a delicious variety of fresh and flavourful burgers, sandwiches, salads, and more – served with genuine hospitality and a quality-first mind set”.

“We are honoured and excited to bring The Habit Burger Grill to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands,” said Blackband. “We have a strong belief in The Habit brand and have been long-time fans of their signature chargrilled burgers, delicious sandwiches and fresh salads.”

“Pegasus Foods is a burgeoning restaurant operator and franchise business partner with a strong vision, strategy, and a dynamic team that we are proud to be working with to introduce The Habit Burger Grill to the UK and the Netherlands,” said Russ Bendel, chief executive at The Habit Burger Grill. “We are impressed with their team’s passion to deliver The Habit’s unique offering of quality food and genuine hospitality all at a remarkable value which aligns perfectly with our core principles.”

MCA previously revealed that Habit, which operates c200 sites in the US, with the majority in California, had appointed property advisors Lewis Tucker to seek appropriate 2,000sq ft to 3,000sq ft sites across the South East.

Target locations include Basingstoke, Bromley, Clapham, Chiswick, Croydon, Oxford and Vauxhall.

Its launch in the UK is being spearheaded by Pegasus Foods, which is led by Paddy Adenuga is the founder, chairman, and chief executive of Pegasus Capital Investments. The head office team also includes Phil Cooke, former head of procurement for Patisserie Holdings and ex-procurement director at Deltic Group.

From 1969 to 2007, the chain slowly expanded around the Los Angeles metropolitan area to 23 restaurants, before being backed by private equity and embarking on an accelerated expansion programme.

In 2015, it signed an international franchise agreement with Food Quest Restaurant Management for the development of up to 50 new Habit Burger Grill restaurants in six countries in the Middle East over the next 10 years.

The first restaurant under the agreement opened last year in Dubai.