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Difference Between Chipotle and Qdoba

Chipotle and Qdoba are two of the most competitive Mexican food chains.  Both of them specialize in tacos and burritos and its first restaurants were in Denver, Colorado. Also, their burritos are both Mission-style or San Francisco which are characterized by their large size and inclusive ingredients. Chipotle or Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. advertises their products as “food with integrity” which is resonated by their current campaign, “for real”. Their brand name is derived from the Nahuati term for smoked and dried jalapenos. On the other hand, Qdoba or Qdoba Mexican Eats features the tagline: “What are you going to love at Qdoba?”. The following further delve into such distinctions. 


What is Chipotle?

Chipotle Mexican Grill is known as one of the pioneers in Mexican fast casual food chains. The name was derived from “chilpoctli”, a Nahuati word which translates to “smoked chili” which is a popular seasoning in Mexican cuisines. Chipotle was founded by Steve Ells in 1993 in Denver, Colorado. Ells is the current executive chairman and Brian Niccol is the CEO. This restaurant’s headquarters is in Newport Beach, California and it presently has 2,500 branches in various locations in United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and France.

This American restaurant specializes in tacos and Mission-style burritos; the other items in their menu include quesadillas, salads, and bowls. Customers can choose from pork carnitas, steak, chicken, barbacoa (barbecued beef), vegetarian, and tofu-based “sofritas” (sauce with aromatic ingredients). Their extras include chips, guacamole, and salsa.


What is Qdoba?

Qdoba Mexican Eats is one of the popular chains of Mexican-style cuisine fast casual restaurants. It was first named as “Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill” in 1995 and it was renamed as “Z-Teca Mexican Grill” in 1997. Due to lawsuits regarding similar tradenames, the name “Qdoba” was created in 1999. The founders were Anthony Miller and Robert Hauser and the owner is Apollo Global Management, an American public equity firm. The first restaurant was situated in Denver, Colorado; it currently has 729 branches in several locations in the United States and Canada.

Qdoba is known for its San Francisco burrito style; other products include quesadillas, Mexican gumbo, and chili con queso. The meat in their burritos can be chicken, beef, and pork; they have vegetarian options and they also serve chips, dips, and soup.


Difference between Chipotle and Qdoba


Chipotle is known for its “food with integrity” campaign for years. They advertise their products as prepared by hand and sourced out from high quality ingredients. Its most current slogan is “For Real” with the tagline: “The only ingredient that’s hard to pronounce at Chipotle is ‘Chipotle”. In fact, they featured their 51 ingredients which includes avocado, bay leaf, bell pepper, chipotle chili, cilantro, cloves, cumin, lime juice, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, tomato paste, vegetable rennet, wheat rice, wheat flour, and tomatillo. On the other hand, Qdoba’s tagline is: “What are you going to love at Qdoba?” which points out the variety of options offered to customers’ various tastes as evidenced by their customizable flavors.


In Qdoba, customers do not need to pay for extra guacamole; hence, it is usually viewed as affordable. However, in Chipotle, customers need to pay $1.80 for extra guacamole. Interestingly, some claim that they do not mind to pay extra as Chipotle’s guac is indeed fresh and tasty.


As compared to Chipotle’s cheese, Qdoba’s queso is usually more favored by cheese lovers as it has more servings and flavors.


As compared to Qdoba, Chipotle is more assertive in their campaign towards GMO-free and fresh ingredients. In 2015, they claimed to be the first nationwide restaurant to serve completely GMO-free products as unlike other companies, they did not use GMO corn and beans.

Variety of Menu

Qdoba is more open to variations as evidenced by its tagline, “What are you going to love at Qdoba”. On the other hand, Chipotle is more focused on improving its selected menu.


Chipotle has 2,500 locations internationally; aside from the US, it also has branches in Canada, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. In comparison, Qdoba has less with 729 locations which are found in the US and Canada.

Year Founded and Founders

Chipotle is a couple of years older as it was founded on July 13, 1993 by Steve Ells. As for Qdoba, it was founded in 1995 by Anthony Miller and Robert Hauser. 

Meaning of Brand Name

Chipotle is based on “chilpoctli”, a Nahuati word which translates to “smoked chili” which is a popular seasoning in Mexican cuisines. Qdoba was first named as Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill” in 1995 and it was renamed as “Z-Teca Mexican Grill” in 1997. Its current name was created to make it different from other tradenames.

Tacos’ Crispness

According to some reviews, the tacos of Chipotle can maintain its crispness longer as compared to those of Qdoba.

Chipotle vs Qdoba



  • Chipotle and Qdoba are two of the most competitive Mexican food chains. 
  • The current campaign of Chipotle is “For real” while that of Qdoba is “The only ingredient that’s hard to pronounce at Chipotle is ‘Chipotle”.
  • Unlike Chipotle, Qdoba does not charge for extra guac.
  • As compared to Chipotle, Qdoba has more cheese of various flavors.
  • Chipotle’s menu is less varied as compared to Qdoba.
  • Chipotle has more locations than Qdoba.
  • Chipotle was founded two years earlier than Qdoba.
  • Chipotle pertains to smoked chili while Qdoba was created to make it different. 


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  1. Very informative. thank you.

  2. Thanks for the info! I prefer Qdoba but that’s just me! Their service is quicker, salsas taste better, more cheese options, etc.

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References :

[0]Addenbrook, Haley. “The Debate of the Century: Qdoba vs Chipotle”. Collegiate Times 14 April 2015, http://www.collegiatetimes.com/opinion/the-debate-of-the-century-qdoba-v-chipotle/article_27974724-e2c1-11e4-af46-b7d23cbfeb42.html

[1]Johnson, Hollis. “I Compared Chipotle’s Food to Another Major Mexican-Food Competitor-And the Winner Shocked Me”. Business Insider 14 Oct. 2015, https://www.businessinsider.com/chipotle-vs-qdoba-review-2015-10

[2]Sunkara, Sameera. “A Comparison of Moe’s Chipotle and Qdoba”. Collegiate Times 20 April 2019, http://www.collegiatetimes.com/lifestyles/a-comparison-of-moe-s-chipotle-and-qdoba-which-one/article_27296050-69e6-11e9-a2a1-bf9272b5f6bb.html

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/5908005177

[4]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mr_t_in_dc/4180671692

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