The Reason Qdoba Keeps Changing Its Name

Though the entity behind Qdoba Mexican Eats has existed in one form or another for the last 25 years, the chain has only called itself that since 2015.

The restaurant was founded in Denver in 1995 under the name Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill. However, as Fast Company writes, it faced a lawsuit. While Fast Company does not go into further details, it seems likely that the restaurant the group ran foul of was a Tex-Mex establishment in Boston also called Zuma. In 2018, Eater reported on a separate court order brought on by the Tex-Mex Zuma that forced an Japanese izakaya chain with the same name to cease using the name due to the confusion, so one can only assume this Zuma was behind Qdoba's name change as well. The site Franchise Chatter thinks so, too.

Either way, Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill became Z-Teca Mexican Grill. That is, until they ran into another lawsuit. In 2000, the Milwaukee Business Journal announced that this second name change, which left the chain called Qdoba Mexican Grill, was to avoid confusion and further legal entanglement.

Chipotle caused the final name change

However, Qdoba Mexican Grill was not their final name change — today, they're Qdoba Mexican Eats. That change, as Restaurant Business Online notes, occurred in 2015. The final change seems to be an attempt to distance the chain from Chipotle Mexican Grill, against which Qdoba could not compete in recognition. 

"I think they're still a bit behind in terms of brand awareness because of [the various name changes]," John Imbergamo, a restaurant consultant, told The Denver Post.

A similar story is seen that very same year with Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill, who renamed themselves Rubio's Coastal Grill (via Nation's Restaurant News). While Rubio's was already known for their fish tacos, they told Nation's Restaurant News that they "wanted to take our menu more to a coastal place to better leverage our expertise around seafood." However, one can only assume Chipotle's association with the term "Mexican grill" was also a factor.

Still, David Craven, vice president of brand marketing at Qdoba, makes a good point when he tells QSR that "Mexican Grill has become a moniker many brands are using, but it doesn't have much meaning with consumers." Yet it does overlook the fact that the meaning it does have now is Chipotle Mexican Grill, which means the comparison is always invited. So, by becoming Qdoba Mexican Eats, the company has freed itself at last from the issues of naming and can continue attempting to make the lasting impression they've been after for 25 years.