Why Qdoba is Better Than Chipotle

I remember when the first Chipotle opened up in my neighborhood. It was quite a novelty. Burritos so large you could stand them up on end. The restaurants were unique and you could make your burrito however you liked.

For years, I was a Chipotle-frequenter.

why qdoba is better than chipotle

Then, on a road-trip out West, I discovered another burrito joint called Qdoba. I was hooked. They offered similar menu items to Chipotle, but I found the food tastier – with their unique queso sauces and (seemingly) fresher ingredients.

Both chains raised their prices this year – Chipotle in the spring, and Qdoba, covertly this fall (under the guise of offering free “extras”).

While Chipotle and Qdoba are very similar in taste – there are some reasons that I think Qdoba is better than Chipotle and will ultimately save you more money.

 A look at their prices

Chipotle and Qdoba offer online ordering – which is a great service if you don’t want to wait in their (oftentimes) long lunch lines.

Taking a look at their prices online and in my area (Minneapolis) – let’s see how they match up on a chicken burrito.

Chipotle Chicken BurritoQdoba Chicken Burrito
chipotle-burritoqdoba-burrito
White Rice, Pinto Beans, Cheese, Fresh Tomato Salsa, Guacamole, LettuceCilantro Rice, Pinto Beans,
Pico de Gallo Salsa (mild),
Cheese, Shredded Lettuce,
Add Guacamole, Add 3-Cheese Queso Diablo
$8.45$7.80

So, on price at least, Qdoba beats Chipotle by .65 cents on a popular menu item – the wrapped chicken burrito. Keep in mind that Qdoba offers all the “extras” for free – so you could really load up your burrito with queso and quacamole to boot!

Here’s another menu item that folks tend to order a lot of: chips and salsa. Let’s see how they stack up there:

Chipotle Chips and SalsaQdoba Chips and Salsa
chipotle-chipsqdoba-chips
Chips & Fresh Tomato Salsa Chips with your choice of salsa
$1.95$2.00

Even with getting beat on chips and salsa, Qdoba is still up on price by .60 cents.

Note: The one menu item where Chipotle beats Qdoba on price is on their veggie burrito bowls. Chipotle offers this for $6.50 (which comes with free guacamole), while Qdoba gets beat quite handedly at $7.80.

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How you can really save money at Qdoba

With Qdoba being easier on your wallet than Chipotle, they offer other ways to save with them (which I really appreciate).

The only freebie's I've gotten from Chipotle was when I dressed up in tin foil
Qdoba offers a frequent diner program called “Qdoba Rewards“. I’ve been with it over a year now and it is truly worth the effort to have the cashier scan the card. After every 10th meal purchase, you get a free entree.

This reward program is something that Chipotle lacks.

Going back to an earlier post about how I purchase discounted gift cards to save money on things I routinely purchase, I’ve gotten Qdoba cards for 8-10% off their face value. Add that on top of my free entree every 10th purchase, and that is even more savings. (AND purchase this online with a Discover card – that routinely offers 3-5% back on online buys – and you can do even better!)

Lastly, Qdoba offers its email subscribers birthday bonuses as well as other freebies off/on just by being on their list. The only freebie’s I’ve gotten from Chipotle was when I dressed up in tin foil for Halloween.

All this said – I think Qdoba tastes better AND saves me more money than Chipotle.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer one over the other?

Update 4/28/2016: Kudos to Chipotle who has finally had to relent to creating a rewards program similar to what Qdoba has. It’s too bad they couldn’t have instituted this earlier and not been forced to after slumping sales.

Update 7/21/2106: With Chipotle’s new reward program called Chiptopia – you may be able to earn rewards at a faster rate than Qdoba’s. Here’s more info about Chiptopia and to sign up (if you wish to go to the dark side)   

Update 12/5/2016: Qdoba started their new revamped Rewards program today. Many current members will receive 1400 point that go towards free entrees. After the first initial look at the program – it appears to be a little bit of a downgrade for customers. You’ll need to make a quite a few purchases for that free entree – but you will get different perks / with the ability to choose what you want after just a few visits (usually smaller items). Also the more you visit, the faster you earn reward points.

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12 comments

  1. Andy says:

    Qdoba’s are seemingly harder to find in the Northeast, but I have noticed that with Chipotle, the quality of ingredients is on the decline while the abundance of sodium is on the rise …

    … nothing good lasts forever it seems.

    • Aaron says:

      They are getting big and it’s definitely harder to maintain quality. I will give em credit for being transparent about their ingredients.

  2. iamalighthouse says:

    We have both those out here, but I admit…I’m loyal to Chipotle for their advocating for not feeding their animals gmo’s or giving them antibiotics. Do you know if Qdoba does anything similar?

    • Aaron says:

      Yes – that is a definite plus about Chipotle. While they have a ways to go on getting their foods clean – at least they are ahead of Qdoba. They still don’t have transparency here.

  3. Nathan says:

    I think it’s worth mentioning that the guacamole at Chipotle is optional, but simply a whopping $1.95 extra. That greatly inflates the price – if you did not include guacamole on both burritos, the Chipotle one would cheaper.

    Honestly, Qdoba makes you pay a higher cost up front so you can have extras if you so desire. Chipotle just charges extra if you want extra. Either way works, but for people like me who don’t like guacamole on their burrito (+ it doesn’t make any sense at Qdoba – usually people get it with QUESO because “gotta get your money’s worth!”. How is the flavor of guacamole supposed to compliment queso, much less the spicy diablo queso?), Chipotle is ultimately cheaper.

    Another thing to note is that at Chipotle, you can get salsa on the side for free with your burrito (no extra charge if you buy chips afterwards, just tell them they’re separate). Thus if you’re buying a burrito + chips + salsa, Chipotle is cheaper…

    I love both restaurants though. I didn’t know about the Qdoba rewards program. Interesting blog post overall.

    • Aaron says:

      Excellent analysis Nathan. Thanks. I was making an apples to apples comparison as if someone loaded up their burrito. Even if we say that Chipotle is “cheaper” on price – overall, they aren’t, due to the Rewards program. If I’m getting a free meal every 10th visit – any savings I have with Chipotle is wiped out because I get a freebie with Qdoba.

  4. john says:

    Qdoba is VASTLY superior to Chipotle, period. The portions for starters are at lest 40% greater, if not more. Think. About. That.
    I’ve been to Chipotle too many times whereupon the portioned size that was troweled out was on par for children, if that. No. Thank You.
    Qdoba’s quality in all manner has always been great and consitant, this cannot be said for Chipotle, whose beans as an example are many times significantly undercooked to the point where they have to be, forgive me, spit out. Jesus H. Christ! Consistant quality, for that matter quality is not a standard at Chipotle.

    Oh, for all the righteous “feel goods” out there…………… I’m no less caring than the next individual but I will not be suckered into believing that I as consumer am participating in something wrong via a competing chain proclaiming just how “humane”, “organic”, etc., etc. ad nauseam they are. Qdoba’s quality throughout is more than obvious Chipotle. Then again Chipotle, I did NOT vote for “The One”. Indeed, forget you Chipotle…………………

  5. Armaron Jondon says:

    I love Qdoba too, you get more, it costs less, the rewards card is awesome. And the inside is so much better- not so cheap feeling and crowded.

  6. Adam says:

    What always got me is that Chipotle refuses to add ground beef to their menu. I’m like OK, so if I order the tacos I’m left with dry pork, fatty chicken or steak and a tofu concoction. Right. So shockingly, Qdoba offers ground beef, a staple of basic tacos that, again, Chipotle doesn’t see the point in adding, and it is delicious. I’d love to see Qdoba add pickled onions to the menu someday. Another Mexican staple that would elevate already tasty food even more.

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