Chipotle vs. Qdoba: Difference between Mexican Eateries

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Difference between Chipotle and Qdoba

As far as casual Mexican restaurants go, Chipotle and Qdoba are at the top of the heap. Both offering a wide array of Mexican and Mexican-inspired dishes, the two are actually not as similar as you would think, as you will see from] this comparison article.



Chipotle is a Denver-based restaurant chain with numerous branches in the United States and in Canada. The restaurant chain is best known for its burritos and tacos, and it draws its name from the smoked, dried chili pepper that flavors and spices up many of its dishes. Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells in 1993.

Qdoba or Qdoba Mexican Grill is a “fast casual” restaurant chain that specializes in Mexican-inspired cuisine. The company was owned by ACI Capital until 2003, after which time it was acquired by another restaurant chain, Jack in the Box.

The Early Years

Chipotle started out as the brainchild of Steve Ells, who went to the Culinary Institute of America. Ells then worked as a line cook for Jeremiah Tower at the celebrated Stars restaurant in San Francisco. It was there that Ells recognized the potential of taquerías and burritos. By 1993, Ells had moved to Denver and opened up the first Chipotle branch with a loan of $85,000 loan given by his father. The restaurant had a bit of a slow start, with father and son realizing that they had to sell more than 107 burritos a day in order to turn a profit. Success was quick to follow however, and it wasn’t long before the original Chipotle was selling more than 1,000 burritos a day.

Qdoba on the other hand was opened in 1995 by business partners Anthony Miller and Robert Hauser. The first Qdoba branch was also in Denver, Colorado, and it was a wildly successful enterprise right from the start. In fact, revenues for the first year alone came to more than $1,500,000, which was a lot more than the initial costs of launching the restaurant: $180,000.


All Chipotle restaurants are owned by the company, in contrast to the franchise model followed by many other restaurant chains. At present, there are more than 1,000 Chipotle restaurants in the United States and Canada, and various others in Europe as well. The first Chipotle restaurant in Europe was opened in May of 2010 in London. Other planned locations for future Chipotle are Paris, France and Munich.

Qdoba has actually undergone quite a few name changes in its history, with the first branch having been called Zuma. However, there were already a few other restaurants of that name on the scene, so the owners changed the name to Z-TECA Mexican Grill. This name too was thought to be too close to to Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill, and the restaurant underwent a final name change to Qdoba. At present, the restaurant chain has more than 450 locations all over the United States.

Similarities and Differences


  • A Denver-based restaurant chain with numerous branches in the United States and in Canada
  • Founded by Steve Ells in 1993


  • A “fast casual” restaurant chain that specializes in Mexican-inspired cuisine
  • Opened in 1995 by business partners Anthony Miller and Robert Hauser

Which restaurant makes a better burrito?
  • Chipotle
  • Qdoba

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