Chipotle vs. Qdoba

There is no doubt that Americans love Mexican food. There are more Mexican restaurants across the United States than there are Italian and Chinese restaurants. As of 2011, there are more than 38,000 Mexican restaurants operating in the country.

This love for Mexican food has nothing to do with the rate of Mexican migration and settlements. North Dakota has one of the lowest percentages of Hispanic residents but, more than 7% of their restaurants have personnel wearing big sombreros and selling tacos.

With the popularity of the Mexican taco, burrito and nacho, there is a big market in the Mexican food catering business.

In this article, we are going to discuss the two major players in the market; Chipotle Mexican Grill and Qdoba.


History and Experience

Chipotle started in 1993 and has grown to over 1,600 locations the country.

Qdoba started in 1995 and has expanded to 600 locations.

In terms of experience in the industry, Chipotle has a 2 year advantage over Qdoba but, that’s not all. How big the company has expanded or franchised, has something to tell about the public’s perception about the company and the quality of their service. This perception is borne from actual dining experiences. Given that Chipotle has more than twice as much, owned and franchised, locations over Qdoba; it is safe to say that Chipotle has attracted more customers than Qdoba.

But, we won’t let public opinion decide on who’s better. Here are some more objective facts on the catering services of both Mexican food establishments.

Availability of Catering Services


Chipotle clearly states that their catering services are available in all 1,600 locations with the exception of New York where they can only provide the simple boxed meal delivery.

On the other hand, Qdoba cannot provide this coverage. With their 600 locations, catering services is still a “call and check” thing. This means that their catering services are only available in less than 600 locations.

In most cases, Chipotle is your only choice because there are a lot of places where Qdoba catering services is not available.

Size of Orders

Chipotle can prepare meals for 6 or more people while Qdoba can only prepare for 10 and increments of 5 people.

Here, Chipotle has more flexibility. If you only have 6 persons attending a meeting then, Chipotle is your only choice unless you want to order 4 extra meals.

If you only have 12 people attending, Chipotle can sell you exactly 12 meals while Qdoba will sell 15 because they work in increments of 5.

Mexican catering usually involves 3 options: the burrito/taco bar, the burrito lunch box and the nacho bar.

Catering Options: Burrito / Taco Bar

Chipotle has a combined burrito and taco bar. This means that when you get them for catering, your guests will have the option of making a burrito or a taco.

Qdoba has a separate taco and burrito bar. This means that it’s either your guest will eat tacos or burritos depending on what catering service you requested.

It’s clear that Chipotle has more options because both tacos and burritos are available in the same package while in Qdoba, you are confined to either tacos or burritos.

Choice of Meats and Fillings

Chipotle burrito and taco catering services can be contracted for a 2-meat package or a 3-meat package. 2-meat packages give you 2 choices from chicken, steak carnitas, barbacoa or sofritas while the 3-meat packages give you 3 choices from the same meat variants.

Qdoba burrito or taco catering services only have chicken and steak.

Chipotle has more meat choices because they included 3 other exotic meats; carnitas, barbacoa and sofritas.

Chipotle can give you 3 meats in one catering service while Qdoba can only give you 2.

Catering Option 2: Burrito in a Box

Chipotle can serve a minimum of 6 and customers can have mixed choices of chicken, steak, carnitas, barbacoa and sofritas.

Qdoba can only go down to 10 with limited mixed choices of chicken and steak.

Catering Option 3: Nacho Bar

Chipotle can serve a minimum of 10 while in Qdoba can only go down to 20.


The best way compare Chipotle and Qdoba catering services is to try them both. But in most cases you can’t, because there are a lot of locations where Chipotle is the only one available.

In case you have a choice, here’s the tale of the tape.

If you have a small gathering that needs to be catered, Chipotle will have the upper hand because they can go down to as low as 6 persons.

If you want more meat choices, again, Chipotle will have the advantage because they have 5 meats to offer while Qdoba only has 2.

If you want to play it safe, Chipotle would be the safer choice. There’s is no doubt that both Mexican food caterers will be providing their best service all the time. But, Chipotle’s overwhelming growth and expansion can tell you that they probably have more consistent quality service hence, their popularity.

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