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News worthy of a second take:Restaurant sales continued to roll on in September according to the Commerce Department. Knapp-Track continues to show weak sales at casual dining chains. Amazon is going the brick-and-mortar route with the internet giant announcing they are moving into the c-store business and opening drive-in locations for the pickup of groceries ordered online. A study shows that noise can make food taste bad. Read more...

Chain Innovators: Qdoba Mexican Grill

Billing itself as an "artisanal Mexican kitchen," Qdoba has grown to more than 500 units and secured its position as a major force in the fast-casual restaurant segment.

QdobaConsistently adding upwards of 50 units a year, Qdoba has wrapped up a formula for success that relies on a core menu of burrito, quesadilla and taco fixings prepared fresh in-store — including slow-roasting its pork and hand-shredding its beef — and sales- and traffic-building limited time offers, such as Mini Street Tacos and Summer Fresh Mango Salad.

While LTOs keep things interesting, the chain's best strategic innovation of late is its Craft 2™ menu option, launched in January 2010. "It allows guests to mix and match two of our most popular items in one entrée for an average price of $5.99," says Ted Stoner, director of strategic product development. "It lets them try different things in smaller portions or balance a smaller portion of a heavier item with a salad. When the economy was so soft we really had to look hard at how we could entice loyal guests to come back in more often and also to attract new guests. This was a huge success on both fronts and it continues to represent a nice percentage of sales."

In line with a recent drive to promote its more healthful menu options, Qdoba even offers customers suggestions on Craft 2™ menu combinations that come in at less than 600 calories.

Fast Facts

  • Year founded: 1995
  • Headquarters: Wheat Ridge, Colo.
  • Menu specialties: Fresh Mexican cuisine that is handcrafted and prepared on an open grill
  • Service model: Fast-casual, take-out
  • Ownership: Qdoba is a wholly owned subsidiary of Jack in the Box, Inc.
  • Units: 500 in 42 states (60 percent franchised)
  • 2010 sales: $480,794,000
  • 2010 growth: Sales increased 11 percent, number of units grew by 3 percent
  • Projected 2011 growth: 60 to 70 new locations
  • Typical location: High-profile end cap and inline locations
  • Average unit size: Approximately 2,400 sq. ft.
  • Average kitchen space: Approximately 800 sq. ft.
  • Average check: $9.88 (FY 2010)
  • Total unit cost: $633,000

Key Players

  • Chief Executive Officer: Gary Beisler
  • Chief Operating Officer: Richard Pugh
  • Chief Marketing Officer: Karen Guido
  • Vice President of Franchise Development: Todd Owen
  • Vice President of Real Estate Development: Peder Kruger
  • Director of Strategic Product Development: Ted Stoner
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