Qdoba Mexican Grill is a chain of fast casual Fresh Mex restaurants in the United States and Canada serving Mexican-style cuisine. The company was a wholly owned subsidiary of Jack in the Box since its purchase from ACI Capital, Western Growth Capital, and other private investors in 2003. Jack in the Box sold the chain to Apollo Global Management in 2017.
Founder and Colorado native Anthony Miller and partner Robert Hauser opened the first restaurant in 1995. The Denver, Colorado, location was an immediate success with first year revenues exceeding $1,500,000. The cost of opening the 1,300-square-foot store was only $180,000.
The restaurants have gone through a few name changes. After initially opening as Zuma, the name was changed to Z-TECA Mexican Grill to avoid confusion with other Zuma Mexican restaurants. When that name was deemed to be too similar to Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill the name Qdoba was invented in 1999 by ad agency Heckler & Associates.
Qdoba now operates over 600 fast casual restaurant locations throughout the United States. In 2003, San Diego-based Jack in the Box company acquired the chain from ACI Capital, a private equity management firm that was the outgrowth of commodity-trader A.C. Israel Enterprises in the 19th century. The first Canadian location opened on December 3, 2012 in Brandon, Manitoba. In June of 2013, Qdoba announced it would close a total of 67 underperforming restaurants, including 18 in and around Chicago. Qdoba serves burritos made in the San Francisco burrito style, tacos, quesadillas, taco salads, chile con queso, tortilla soup, Mexican gumbo, and fresh guacamole. The restaurant fits into the "fast casual" category, offering both quick service and a higher quality of food than typical fast-food restaurants. Customers order by selecting an entrée, then choosing its ingredients. All of the items are made in plain view of the customer. The chain's current slogan is "We Live Food." To distinguish itself from some of its competitors, Qdoba serves breakfast and some locations are open 24 hours on weekends.
The main national rivals to Qdoba are Chipotle Mexican Grill (which also started in Denver, two years before Qdoba), Baja Fresh, and Panchero's Mexican Grill. The company was recently involved in a lawsuit in which Panera Bread attempted to invoke a clause in Panera's contract with the White City Shopping Center in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, to stop the opening of a Qdoba Mexican Grill. The clause provided that Panera would be the only sandwich shop in the shopping center. Panera argued that burritos and other tortilla-based foods were, in fact, sandwiches. Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke ruled against Panera, concluding, "A sandwich is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans." However, the Qdoba in Shrewsbury has since closed, while Moe's Southwest Grill and Chipotle Mexican Grill remain open across the street.
To keep up with its competition, especially Chipotle Mexican Grill, and to draw more families, Qdoba introduced a kids' menu in December 2009.
- ACI Capital - Portfolio. ACI Capital.
- Jack in the Box Buys Qdoba Restaurant. Los Angeles Times. January 22, 2003.
- Qdoba restaurant chain sold to Jack in the Box. Louisville Business First. January 22, 2003.
- Jack in the Box sells struggling Qdoba for $305 million. The USA Today. December 19, 2017.
- Z-Teca changes name. Denver Business Journal. December 17, 1999.
- Qdoba has recipe for success. Louisville Business First. January 14, 2002.
- Jack in the Box and Qdoba Look Set to Take Down Chipotle. The Motley Fool. December 1, 2013.
- Brandon lands first Qdoba. Winnipeg Free Press. December 5, 2012.
- Qdoba to close 18 Chicago-area restaurants. Chicago Tribune. June 27, 2013.
- GOOD EATS: San Francisco style hits Huntington with Qdoba. The Herald-Dispatch. March 11, 2010.
- Fresh-Mex restaurants expand outlets in Valley. The Arizona Republic'. January 5, 2010.
- Arguments spread thick. The Boston Globe. November 10, 2006.
- Qdoba introduces kids’ meals. NRN.com. December 13, 2009.
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