Chipotle is a restaurant chain that specializes in Mexican cuisine. It is famous for its burritos and tacos, as well as its “Chipotle Style” service.
When it comes to quality ingredients and sourcing, Chipotle has proven to be one of the best fast-food chains.
While many fast-food restaurants struggle to keep up with changing consumer tastes, Chipotle has been able to maintain its reputation as a healthier option while growing sales at double-digit rates.
Several factors contribute to the chain’s strength. First and foremost, its emphasis on high-quality ingredients is a significant differentiator in a crowded and competitive market.
It has also prioritized speed, which drives traffic from harried millennials and raises average ticket prices through premium add-ons such as guacamole.
Here are the main Chipotle competitors
1. Qdoba Mexican Eats
Considered to be one of Chipotle’s main competitors, Qdoba is also part of Jack in The Box, making it a very accessible competitor for anyone.
With over 500 locations in 25 states, Qdoba has made a lot of effort to match their value menu items with burritos and tacos that have similar prices as those at Chipotle.
In addition to having very similar prices, they are also highly dependent on customer loyalty card programs to provide additional discounts on their menu items.
Qdoba operated its restaurants autonomously for 15 years before being acquired by Apollo Global Management in 2019.
Over 15 years, Qdoba installed its culture and quality standards in each location.
With its dedication to quality, Qdoba stands out as an industry leader.
It’s rapidly expanding and on pace to open up to 30 new restaurants by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
2. Moe’s Southwest Grill
While Moe’s, with more than 450 locations, is a very different concept from Chipotle—it serves burritos, tacos, and nachos—the chain has a similar emphasis on fresh ingredients.
Their food is prepared from scratch each day in open kitchens; their tortillas are made with all-natural ingredients including eggs and hand-pressed wheat flour, and they even grill their chips and beans in small batches to ensure freshness.
One of their biggest differences is that you order at a counter and your food is brought to you (rather than taking an assembly line approach).
While it can be a little bit faster than some other Mexican fast-casual chains, don’t expect to get out of there any quicker than you would at Chipotle.
3. Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
Baja Fresh Mexican Grill is a fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Mexican cuisine, with over 250 restaurants, located primarily throughout the Southwestern United States.
In addition to tacos, burritos, and salads, Baja Fresh serves pico de gallo, cilantro rice, and various salsas.
The company was founded in 1990 in Newbury Park, California.
Baja Fresh was founded as a fresh alternative to fast food Mexican restaurants.
Their goal was to offer authentic food from Mexico prepared fresh daily.
Since its beginning, Baja Fresh has adopted a “No Compromise” approach by using only the freshest ingredients.
Each of their restaurants features an open kitchen design where customers can see their food being prepared.
4. Rubio’s Coastal Grill
Founded in 1983 by Ralph Rubio in San Diego, California, Rubio’s Coastal Grill is a seafood restaurant chain with locations along both coasts of North America.
The original coastal grill offered simple menu items like fish tacos and burritos; today, customers can enjoy a variety of items including salads, pasta dishes, and tacos.
With nearly 400 locations in operation across 18 countries on five continents, there’s no doubt that Rubio’s has been able to make itself an international name for its fresh food.
In addition to providing superior customer service and healthy menu options, some other benefits of eating at Rubio’s include: a rewards program called Shell Card; gift cards for sale; catering services; and partnerships with organizations like FitNation.
5. Taco Bell
Taco Bell is the largest fast-food chain that directly competes with Chipotle.
Taco Bell, with over 7,300 locations, is a behemoth that towers over Chipotle, waiting for the right opportunity to take its market share.
The Irvine-based fast-casual chain serves nachos, burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, among other Mexican dishes.
However, the company was forced to remove several items from its menu due to the crisis, including Mexican Pizza, the 7-Layer Burrito, Nachos Supreme, and the Beefy Fritos Burrito.
By discontinuing these popular items, it has lost its competitive advantage over Chipotle.
6. Del Taco
With more than 500 restaurants, Del Taco is well on its way to becoming a regional chain with a national reach.
It’s had a relatively low profile in recent years, but now it’s making headlines for major growth.
Del Taco’s latest expansion plan has more locations in California than any other restaurant (1,100).
Of course, our interest was piqued when we noticed their diverse menu and innovative promotional approach.
Expect Del Taco to be making more headlines as it continues to ramp up its growth strategy.
For example, look for them to test new delivery options soon—with food prices being an important factor driving consumer preferences today, anything that can boost convenience is going to be big news down the road.
7. Taco John’s
This fast-food chain is based in Wyoming and features fresh, hand-made ingredients.
The burritos are said to be a great alternative to those of competitors like Chipotle, giving users more variety than just traditional Mexican fare.
But Taco John’s has only been around since 1966, making it one of the younger players on our list.
Another drawback is that Taco John’s only has 120 stores nationwide, so you might not have one nearby if you live outside of its primary markets in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Freebirds World Burrito is an American fast-casual restaurant chain located mostly in Texas and California, with some locations in Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Georgia, and Missouri.
Freebirds was founded by Mark Orfalea in 1987 in Santa Barbara, California.
The first location was on the corner of State and Cota streets in downtown Santa Barbara.
Freebirds offered a build-your-own burrito concept and became a hit with college students at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Orfalea sold the company to a group of private investors in 1993. It was then relocated to Austin, Texas.
The new owners expanded the concept to other college towns throughout Texas and Oklahoma during the 1990s.
Freebirds expanded into Kansas City in 2006, Denver in 2007, and Tulsa in 2008.
In 2009 it entered Southern California and Arizona via partnerships with existing restaurant groups.
McDonald’s is the largest hamburger fast-food chain in the world serving food in about 120 countries.
The company was founded by Richard and Maurice McDonald; they opened the first McDonald’s restaurant in 1940 in San Bernardino, California.
The company chose to franchise its business in 1955, leading to its rapid expansion as franchises opened up around the world.
Today, McDonald’s operates over 35,000 restaurants worldwide, employing more than 1.7 million people.
In addition to its signature restaurant chain, McDonald’s also owns the Burge King and Restaurant Brands International chains.
Chick-fil-A is one of the largest American fast food restaurant chains and the largest whose specialty is chicken sandwiches.
Its headquarters are in College Park, Georgia.
The company operates more than 2,300 restaurants, primarily in the United States with locations in 47 states and Washington D.C., as well as Canada and United Kingdom.
The restaurant serves breakfast before transitioning to its lunch and dinner menu.
Chick-fil-A also offers customers catered selections from its menu for special events.
Many of the company’s values are influenced by the religious beliefs of its late founder, S. Truett Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist.