4 reasons why Chipotle will never be as good as its biggest rival

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
  • Qdoba is better than Chipotle for four simple reasons.
  • Both guacamole and queso are free burrito add-ins, the queso is better-tasting, and the menu is larger.

The Tex-Mex fast-casual market is a tough nut to crack. There are a handful of big national players, and most customers have already decided where their loyalty lies.

And while Chipotle has tripped up over the past few years, there are many diehard fans. Still there is a chain that’s more deserving of attention and adoration: Qdoba.

While Chipotle can certainly claim the moral high ground of organic ingredients and sustainable sourcing – which is nothing to sniff at, of course – Qdoba manages to best Chipotle in several key areas. At the end of the day, it’s about the food, and Qdoba’s finds success in ways that Chipotle can only dream of.

1. Queso is a free add-in for burritos and bowls.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Let’s face it: deals make everything taste better. And Qdoba’s queso – delicious already – is all the more enjoyable in a burrito or burrito bowl for being a free add-in. Chipotle, sadly, charges extra for queso.

Plus, you don’t have to wear anything silly for this free-queso privilege – nay,right.

2. Guacamole is a free add-in, too.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

How fantastic is that? We order and dine in a world of Pavlovian affirmations to the age-old question of “Guacamole is extra, is that ok?” Not hearing it in the line at Qdoba is an epiphany of the highest order.

3. It has a larger, less boring menu.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Chipotle’s menu might as well be chiselled onto stone tablets considering how little it changes. The menu has changed only a handful of times since 1993: in 2014, sofritas was added; in 2016, chorizo came to the table, only to be unceremoniously dumped a year later. Menu fatigue is an excruciating issue for Chipotle.

In terms of cost, the chains’ prices differ based on the market – in Jersey City, New Jersey, for instance, Qdoba’s base prices are roughly $US0.50 higher than Chipotle’s. When factoring in free queso and/or guacamole, Chipotle’s bill jumps drastically, but sans add-ins, they’re roughly the same price point.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

But Qdoba’s menu is large enough to allow a diner to live their wildest dreams. OK, slight hyperbole, but it has enough entree options to keep things interesting. Along with the de rigueur burritos, bowls, and tacos, Qdoba offers quesadillas, nachos, and soups. Plus, my favourite Tex-Mex cliché and perhaps the only salad I’d order from a fast-casual chain: the taco salad, complete in the crispy fried taco bowl.

And with more protein options than Chipotle, including two flavours of chicken, ground beef, and a brisket, there are myriad combinations to be made. Chipotle’s menu just feels stagnant by comparison.

4. The queso is so, so, so much better.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

We all know Chipotle’s queso is … a work in progress. Admittedly, the chain is constrained by its admirable tenet of using purely organic ingredients. And I respect that, Chipotle, I really do.

But that strange and grainy bechamel wannabe that’s passed off as queso just cannot hold a candle to Qdoba’s. It’s that perfectly plasticky, fascinatingly fake and yet all too real and cheesy colloid that one expects of queso. We all know that special texture that should logically disgust any palate, yet instead manages to delight and enrapture with every goopy, hot bite.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

And while it is true that Chipotle is actively tinkering with the recipe and seems to be making noticeable progress – the new formula is careening towards enjoyability – the fact remains that Qdoba’s queso is just better.

Did I even mention that Qdoba has two flavours of queso? That’s right, two. Three-cheese queso, and a fiery “queso diablo” for those wanting an extra kick. So keep that in mind.

Ultimately, it boils down to personal preference — and mine is a clear one.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Some people prefer Chipotle out of habit; others appreciate its responsible sourcing. That’s all fine and well.

But for me, Qdoba is king.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.