September 2020

Building a New Healthy Habit: Creating a lifestyle, restaurant, and brand with owners Nick Bergelt & Andrea Roberts

Author: Amy Bartlett | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

The Bergelts reached a point where several issues were converging, crossing a decade threshold, encountering family health issues, and watching their own health fracture in certain ways. “We’d been opening a restaurant almost every other year and burning the candle at both ends,” Nick recalled.

“Relentless 100-hour workweeks started catching up with us. We were constantly sampling, indulging, tasting, in order to get the best product to our guests, and that wasn’t going to continue being good for us.” Unless the restaurant itself was a “healthy habit.”

That was the catalyst for the shift. Nick and Andrea dove into researching options for people in their shoes, discovering how many were looking for the same lifestyle change. They started to think about what Healthy Habit could be. “It was congruent with where we were going in our personal lives,” the Bergelts explained. “We saw it as a platform to be able to better ourselves and, at the same time, turn it into a broader mission to help others.”

Get in. Get out. Get better.
With a laugh that almost masks the marketing savvy, Andrea said, “We’d be on vacation and find incredible healthy eating options and think, Hilton Head needs that. There’s so much good food on the island, and many people visit, in part, for the food scene. Most people can’t eat like that seven days a week and still feel good about themselves, and eating healthy at home is not the same as eating healthy out. The island needed more healthy options, and we wanted to offer a brand where healthy could still be indulgent.”

The Bergelts acquired Healthy Habit as a successful mom-and-pop shop but saw unlimited potential. “From a foundational perspective after getting to know the business,” Nick said, explaining that they were avid customers before taking it on, “we saw a huge opportunity in the brand that could evolve into any food under the sun so long as it was delicious, nutritious, and deliverable at a value and convenience that was comparable to fast-food alternatives—a place where people could get in, get out, and get better.”

First up on the plate of to-dos was creating a bona fide brand. This was Nick Bergelt’s wheelhouse and playground. Bergelt not only spearheaded the brand development of previous restaurant concepts (Charbar Co. & Holy Tequila!), he’s also the founder and the creative entrepreneurial force behind HospitalityX, a portfolio company that’s “re-imagining the traditional notion of what a restaurant is.”

Bergelt engaged frequent creative partner Marco Invernizzi of Mainworks, Co., London, the branding and designteam they use for all their restaurants. “We went back to what turned us on to Healthy Habit in the first place, our personal transition of healing and making you feel good by what you’re putting in your body,” he said. “That’s why you see our ‘H’ represented as a smile, and above that the word ‘heal’ sticks out.

It’s this idea that what you’re eating makes you happy and healthy.”

Their signature bright pink palette bears resemblance to beet-based menu items. Asked which came first, the brand or the beet, the answer is surprisingly the brand. “We looked for fun ways to pull that out and create that identity,” Andrea said. “We wanted to pull that pink predominant color into food choices and created a beet hummus that takes on a fuchsia tone.”

“The more you recognize the brand and it becomes ubiquitous, you won’t have to use it in entirety; the pink and white smile alone reinforces the sense of being happy and feeling good because you’ve built your ‘Healthy Habit,’” Nick added.

Building a healthy appetite
Building this brand meant busting stereotypes. “We vet every single menu item through the lens that it needs to be indulgent, crave-able,” Nick said. “The idea that you have to make a sacrifice—that healthy food can’t be delicious, and if it is, it’s probably not good for you—that’s the stigma we’re here to break.”

They drastically expanded the menu “bringing in a heavy component of superfoods and plant derivatives that have intrinsic health properties and putting every item in a position where there wasn’t a tradeoff for the consumer in taste or cost,” Nick said. “We built a menu around those factors: a price point within reach of any alternative, delivering equally on flavor versus benefit, executed quickly with fresh raw ingredients, and blending flavor profiles that make you crave it enough to come back. We didn’t put anything on the menu that didn’t fit this bill.” Speaking of the bill, they kept 98 percent of the menu under $10 to be sure there was no excuse to not eat healthy, he explained.

Building long-term habits through in-house resourcing and education, Healthy Habit has an exhibition kitchen for customer engagement and is finishing an urban grow room for harvesting leaf lettuces onsite.

“You have three minutes to make guests happy with their in-store experience before you can help them build healthy habits over time,” Andrea said. “Customers discover they feel differently beyond our four walls when health is carried into their life, not just their one meal. When they come for a smoothie but decide to come back tomorrow, that’s when we end up seeing people every single day of their seven-day vacation or see locals making a habit of breakfast, lunch, and after-beach acai bowls.”

“We set out to heal ourselves,” the Bergelts said, “and Healthy Habit became a barometer for realizing what we can do in other communities: making healthy eating approachable, affordable, and delicious for everyone.”

So far, so (very) good. 

Healthy Habit is located at 33 Office Park Rd., Suite 227 (Park Plaza shopping center) on Hilton Head Island. For more information, visit healthyhabithhi.com or call (843) 686-5600.

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