Qdoba Restaurant Corporation
Qdoba Mexican Eats
Formerly called
  • Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Z-Teca Mexican Grill
  • Qdoba Mexican Grill
Industry Restaurants
Founded 1995 (1995) (Denver, Colorado)
  • Anthony Miller
  • Robert Hauser
Headquarters Lakewood, Colorado
Number of locations
Area served
United States and Canada
Products Burritos, Tacos, Quesadillas, Nachos, Taco salad, Tortilla soup, Mexican Gumbo
Owner Jack in the Box
Website qdoba.com

Qdoba Mexican Eats[1] (/kjuːˈdbə/ kew-DOH-bə),[2][3] is a chain of fast casual restaurants in the United States and Canada serving Mexican-style cuisine. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jack in the Box since its purchase from ACI Capital,[4] Western Growth Capital, and other private investors in 2003.[5][6]


This chain can trace it origins to the opening of the Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill in 1995 by Colorado native Anthony Miller and partner Robert Hauser at Grant Street and Sixth Avenue in Denver.[7][8]

Miller and Hauser met in New York City, where Miller was an investment banker with Merrill Lynch and Hauser was attending the Culinary Institute of America and working at the famed Le Cirque restaurant. Hauser developed most of the recipes and tried to design the menu to be healthier by replacing the use of traditional animal fats with vegetable oils and tried to use more fresh vegetables and herbs when he could.[9] During the first year, lines stretched out the door during most evenings at dinnertime, but it usually took roughly seven minutes for customers in a 30-person line to get served.[10] Zuma was a made-up name but was also the name of a friend's cat.[8][11]

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 (120 m2) store was only $180,000.

In 1997, the name of the company was changed from Zuma to Z-Teca Mexican Grill because of a lawsuit from another restaurant using the Zuma name in Boston and by confusion caused by the similar-sounding ZuZu Handmade Mexican Grill[12] chain that was operating in the Denver area at that time.[13] Gary Beisler was hired in 1998 to replace Miller as president and chief operating officer while Miller remained as chief executive officer.[14][15] By mid-1998, Z-Teca had 21 locations in 9 states,[16] with 10 of those locations being franchises.[17] At that time, a chicken burrito cost only $4.79.[16]

Even though Z-Teca was another made-up name, there were lawsuits made by Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill in Arizona and Azteca in Washington state that the Z-Teca name was too similar to their names and it infringed on their tradenames. To overcome these problems, the name Qdoba was invented in 1999[18][11] by ad agency Heckler Associates.[19][20] At the time of the name change to Qdoba Mexican Grill, Gary Beisler replaced Miller as CEO.[14]


Qdoba Mexican Grill, Andover St. Peabody, Massachusetts

As of 2013, Qdoba operates over 600 fast casual restaurant locations throughout the United States.[21] 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.[4]

The first Canadian location opened on December 3, 2012, in Brandon, Manitoba.[22] A second location was opened in London, Ontario, three months later.[23] A third location opened in Winnipeg in 2014.[24]

Qdoba repurchased 25 stores located in Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee from ZT of Louisville, one its largest franchisees, for an undisclosed sum in mid-2012.[25] Tim Casey replaced Gary Beisler as CEO in March 2013.[26] In June 2013, Qdoba announced it would close a total of 67 underperforming restaurants, including 18 in and around Chicago.[27]

In October 2014, Qdoba changed their price structure to "all-inclusive" in which the price only depended on the type of protein ($7.80 for chicken or vegetarian items and $8.40 for steak, shredded beef or pork), but included all of the "extras" that previously incurred an additional charge, such as guacamole and queso sauce.[28][29] Most people who routinely ordered the "extras" with their burritos did not see much of a price difference after the new prices went into effect. However, light eaters complained that if they wanted to maintain their light eating habits by getting a simple plain item, they were hit with as much as a $2 per item price increase (as an example, the Craft 2 which went up to $8.40 from $6.49) by paying for items they did not choose to get (like the guacamole), subsidizing other customers who usually paid for the "extras" in the past, and if they chose to get the extras which they normally don't get, those light eaters would increase their waistline through the increased intake of calories, fat, and salt that usually accompanied those "extras".[30][31][32]

Faced with sluggish growth, management decided to make a change in their marketing strategy. As part of the new strategy, the trade name of the restaurants were changed to Qdoba Mexican Eats in October 2015 in the hope of trying to distinguish itself from similar-sounding competitors.[1][33]


Qdoba serves burritos made in the San Francisco burrito style,[34] 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.[21]

Qdoba has also opened restaurants in non-traditional locations such as directly on college campuses and may participate in some college meal plans.[35][36][37]


A Qdoba Mexican Grill in Eden Prairie, Minnesota

The main national rivals[38] to Qdoba are Chipotle Mexican Grill (which also started in Denver, two years before Qdoba), Baja Fresh, Moe's Southwest Grill, and to a smaller extent Panchero's Mexican Grill.

In 2006, the company was 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."[39] 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.[40][41]

See also


  1. 1 2 Jennings, Lisa (October 27, 2015). "Qdoba Mexican Grill is now Qdoba Mexican Eats". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved December 27, 2015. (subscription required (help)).
  2. "Ask Our Chef - How to Pronounce Qdoba". Qdoba Mexican Grill. Archived from the original on September 4, 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-20.
  3. "Qdoba Mexican Grill on Twitter: "@the_meltz Q Doh Bah (kew-doh-bah)."". Qdoba via Twitter. January 11, 2013.
  4. 1 2 "ACI Capital - Portfolio". ACI Capital. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  5. Robinson-Jacobs, Karen (January 22, 2003). "Jack in the Box Buys Qdoba Restaurant". Los Angeles Times.
  6. "Qdoba restaurant chain sold to Jack in the Box". Louisville Business First. January 22, 2003.
  7. Parker, Penny (September 9, 1995). "Restaurant rush taking a breather?". Denver Post (Rockies ed.). pp. D–01. (subscription required (help)). Here's a list of other eateries that will soon compete for diners' dollars... Zuma - A big-burrito place opening at Grant Street and Sixth Avenue Alternate Link via NewsBank
  8. 1 2 Cox, Jack (December 21, 1995). "Devouring a Dream Financier, chef concoct winning restaurant". Denver Post (Rockies ed.). pp. E–01. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank
  9. St. John, Bill (November 17, 1995). "Bagels to Burritos, All You Need to Eat at 550 Grant St.". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 24D. (subscription required (help)). Zuma turns out Denver's favorite sort of nueva cucina Mexicana: burritos the size of Orson Welles... While it will take some doing to knock Chipotle off the crown of the hill, Zuma isn't just a copy cat... One of Zuma's partners, Bob Hauser, graduated from New York's Culinary Institute of America. He does most of Zuma's cooking, and the skill shows... Zuma relies less on lard or animal fats to carry flavor and more on polyunsaturated cooking oils and fresh herbs and spices. It's a good idea and a tasty one, to boot. Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  10. Parker, Penny (June 10, 1996). "Giant burritos invade trendy eateries' scene". Denver Post (Rockies ed.). pp. E–01. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  11. 1 2 Pate, Kelly (December 15, 1999). "Z-Teca changing its name Lawsuits prompted burrito chain switch". Denver Post. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  12. Parker, Penny (February 16, 1995). "ZuZu opening 35 health-Mex outlets in Colorado". Denver Post (Rockies ed.). pp. C–1. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  13. Cox, Jack (December 31, 1996). "Expansion excites restaurant owners". Denver Post (Rockies ed.). pp. E–02. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  14. 1 2 "Z-TECA Restaurant Corporation Names CEO". PR Newswire. December 13, 1999. p. 1 via The Free Library. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  15. "People on The Move". Denver Post. November 23, 1998. pp. E–05. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  16. 1 2 Ruggless, Ron (July 27, 1998). "Z-Teca plans expansion of fresh-made burrito concept". Nation's Restaurant News. 32 (30). p. 76 via Highbeam Research. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  17. Bunn, Dina (July 28, 1998). "Z-teca Chain Plans Design Make-over 'this Is . . . From Simple Logo to Something More Sophisticated.' - Founder Tony Miller". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 4B. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  18. "Z-Teca changes name". Denver Business Journal. December 17, 1999.
  19. Eagles, Cynthia (January 14, 2002). "Qdoba has recipe for success". Louisville Business First.
  20. Berta, Dina (December 15, 1999). "Z-teca Changing to Q-doba Restaurant Chain's Name Was Too Similar to Those Of Longer-lived Eateries". Rocky Mountain News (Final ed.). p. 1B. (subscription required (help)). Alternate Link via NewsBank.
  21. 1 2 Yagalla, Mark (December 1, 2013). "Jack in the Box and Qdoba Look Set to Take Down Chipotle". The Motley Fool.
  22. McNeill, Murray (December 5, 2012). "Brandon lands first Qdoba". Winnipeg Free Press.
  23. "Qdoba restaurant opens in London". London Community News. March 18, 2013.
  24. "Mexican Grill Polo Park Now Open". Access Winnipeg. April 25, 2014.
  25. Coomes, Steve (June 19, 2012). "Louisville-area Qdoba franchisees sell Ky., Ind., Tenn. stores to parent company". Insider Louisville.
  26. Hicks, L. Wayne (March 8, 2013). "Qdoba picks Tim Casey as new president". Denver Business Journal.
  27. York, Emily Bryson (June 27, 2013). "Qdoba to close 18 Chicago-area restaurants". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-06-29.
  28. Sealover, Ed (October 13, 2014). "Qdoba's subtle makeover: A pricing change designed to combat negative customer perception". Denver Business Journal.
  29. "Qdoba Frees the Flavor; "Extras" No Longer Cost Extra". MarketWatch (Press release). October 3, 2014.
  30. "Comments to "Colorado friends - join us downtown at 17th & Welton and you can get some of your nickels & dimes back! We'll be hanging out..."". Facebook. October 3, 2014.
  31. "Comments to "Price changes? I noticed that ur prices... - Shelly Ferguson Lindegren"". Facebook. November 5, 2014.
  32. Curtis, Nathan (November 6, 2014). "PILE IT ON! Qdoba Goes Toppings Wild...but at a Price". GutCheck.
  33. Horovitz, Bruce (November 2015). "Name Change Can Be a Game Change: Why some growing limited-service restaurants are opting to tweak their moniker". QSR Magazine.
  34. Sebert, Paul (March 11, 2010). "GOOD EATS: San Francisco style hits Huntington with Qdoba". The Herald-Dispatch.
  35. Bass, Rachel (November 5, 2014). "Qdoba caters to campus' Mexican crave". Daily Illini.
  36. Hendee, Caitlin (September 8, 2014). "CU Denver unbolts door on $60.5 million Auraria building (Slideshow)". Denver Business Journal.
  37. Ferraresi, Michael (May 6, 2014). "New eateries coming to Student Union". GCU Today. Grand Canyon University News Bureau.
  38. Jarman, Max (2010-01-05). "Fresh-Mex restaurants expand outlets in Valley". Arizona Republic. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
  39. Abelson, Jeff (2006-11-10). "Arguments spread thick". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
  40. Brandau, Mark (December 13, 2009). "Qdoba introduces kids' meals". NRN.com. (subscription required (help)).
  41. "Qdoba Mexican Grill Introduces New Kids Meals to Give Kids Nutritious Choices". Business Wire (Press release). December 14, 2009.
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