Chipotle Mexican Grill, or Chipotle, is an American chain of fast-casual restaurants. The company operates in the US and several other locations, including Canada, Germany, France and the UK. However, its primary market is the American market. The company specializes in tacos and Mission burritos, which it serves and prepares in front of the customer.
Chipotle has been one of the leading names in the US market due to its services. The company operates almost 2,800 locations in its active markets. Similarly, it made revenues of $5.586 billion in 2019. However, the journey to this position has not been straightforward for the company. Chipotle started its operations in 1993 and has seen various ups and downs throughout the years.
Chipotle operates in a fast-paced industry where the competition is substantial. The company competes with various other brands that offer Mexican-style foods. On top of that, it also faces competition from well-known names in the industry. Due to these, Chipotle may face some issues. Nonetheless, Chipotle’s top competitors and alternatives include the following brands.
1. Taco Bell
Taco Bell is undoubtedly a household name in the US and several other countries. On top of that, it also ranks among the largest fast-food restaurant chains in the US. The company started its operations in 1962 under Glen Bell. Currently, it operates under the Yum! Brands, Inc., which also owns several other similar companies. Taco Bell specializes in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos and other fast-food items.
Taco Bell is one of Chipotle’s most prominent competitors due to the similar menu items. The company boasts serving over two billion customers each year at over 7,000 locations. In 2015, Taco Bell reported revenues of $1.98 billion, which experts believe has grown since then. Taco Bell competes with Chipotle in its primary market for Mexican food.
2. Qdoba Mexican Eats
Qdoba Mexican Eats is a chain of fast-casual restaurants in the US and Canada. As the name suggests, the company focuses on serving customers Mexican-style cuisine. The company started its operations in 1995. Currently, it operates from San Diego, California and manages over 700 locations in 47 states and Canada. Qdoba Mexican Eats is one of Chipotle’s primary competitors in the market.
Besides focusing on Mexican foods, Qdoba also aims to provide customers with healthier options. Similarly, it boasts preparing all its ingredients and meals in-house, from scratch. The company also ensures customers of its cleanliness and sustainability. Originally, Qdoba started as Zuma Fresh Mexican Grill. Later, however, it got renamed Qdoba in 1999.
3. Moe’s Southwest Grill
Moe’s Southwest Grill is an American fast-casual restaurant franchise chain. It started its operations in 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia. Currently, it holds over 700 locations in the United States. The company, well-known as Moe’s, serves various food items on its menu. However, it primarily focuses on Mexican food, competing with Chipotle.
Moe’s Southwest Grill has made a name for itself in the Mexican cuisine market in the US. Similarly, the company has also indulged in food wars with Chipotle. In the past, both companies tried competing for various food items. Moe’s tried to expand its operations internationally. However, it failed due to some complications. Currently, it operates in the US market only.
4. Rubio’s Coastal Grill
Rubio’s Coastal Grill is an American fast-casual restaurant chain specializing in Mexican food. The company also emphasizes fish tacos, which are its speciality item. Rubio’s started its operations in 1983 in San Diego, California. Currently, it operates from Carlsbad, California and owns over 200 locations. However, it does not cover the US as a whole but only some parts.
Rubio’s is a relatively undersized competitor to Chipotle due to its limited operations. Nonetheless, it competes with Chipotle in the markets where it is active. With a focus on seafood recipes, Rubio’s offers users distinct menu items. The brand has also won several awards for its innovative seafood recipes in the past.
5. Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
Baja Fresh Mexican Grill is an American chain of fast-casual Tex Mex restaurants. The company started its operations in 1990 in Newbury Park, California. Currently, it operates from Scottsdale, Arizona, under the MTY Food Group brand. The company emphasizes fresh ingredients and offers a self-serve salsa bar at each location. In 2016, Baja Fresh owned over 160 restaurants in the US, Dubai and Singapore.
Baja Fresh also boasts using farm-fresh ingredients in their products. They do not use processed items. On top of that, the company prides itself in providing handmade products. The company has grown significantly in the past due to its innovative products. Despite suffering some dips in business, the company has recovered to become a decent choice among customers.
6. Freebirds World Burrito
Freebirds World Burrito is a regional chain of fast-casual burrito restaurants. The company started its operations in 1987 in Santa Barbara, California. Currently, it operates from Austin, Texas and owns over 60 locations. Although not as spread out as Chipotle, Freebirds competes in similar markets. The company focuses on its current locations with no plans to expand in the future.
Freebirds burritos are in the tradition of the Mission burrito, a popular food menu item in San Francisco. The company provides a simple menu and buffets. As the name suggests, the company primarily focuses on its burritos. In addition to those items, the company also serves a variety of other Mexican foods like nachos and tacos.
McDonald’s isn’t exactly a Mexican-style food restaurant. Nonetheless, it is one of the biggest names in the restaurant industry. Therefore, it provides significant competition to Chipotle in various markets. McDonald’s began its operations in 1940 in San Bernardino, California. Currently, it serves millions of customers in over 100 countries. The company boasts over 36,000 restaurants in those locations.
McDonald’s reported revenues of $21.076 billion in 2019. It makes the company one of the most prominent names in the restaurant and hospitality industry. In comparison, Chipotle also made almost a quarter of those sales. However, due to their focus on different areas, both companies differ in operations. McDonald’s also owned a majority stake in Chipotle until 2006.
8. Wahoo’s Fish Taco
Wahoo’s Fish Taco is an American restaurant chain that offers Mexican food. However, it adds a twist by mixing its menu items with Brazilian and Asian flavours. Due to this feature, it provides a decent alternative to Chipotle. Wahoo’s started its operations in 1988 in Costa Mesa, California. The company primarily focuses on serving fish tacos and Mahi-Mahi.
Wahoo’s menu includes several items that cater to the customers of Mexican-style food items. Their menu offers vegan and non-vegan options. On top of that, they also have a kids’ menu. Currently, the company focuses on the California market, with over 60 locations there. However, it has also expanded its operations in Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Chick-fil-A is an American fast-food restaurant chain that specializes in chicken sandwiches. It is currently among the largest names in the industry, owning almost 2800 locations across various countries. While the company has tried expanding its operations outside the US, it has not achieved much success. Therefore, it primarily operates in the US market, competing with Chipotle.
Chick-fil-A doesn’t compete with Chipotle directly for its Mexican products. Nonetheless, its popularity in the US market has made it a household name. Chick-fil-A also offers fish sandwiches, which can compete with similar competitors. The company generated over $11 billion in sales in 2019. Overall, Chick-fil-A is a decent alternative to Chipotle.
10. Shake Shack
Shake Shack is an American fast-casual restaurant chain that operates in New York City. The company originated its operations as a hot dog cart inside Madison Square Park. However, its popularity grew in popularity over time. From there, it expanded its menu to include more items. Since then, the company has been one of the fastest-growing food chains in the US.
Shake Shack may not be on the same level as Chipotle and some other names on this list. However, it still makes it on the list as a decent alternative to those chains. Shake Shack has experienced some ups and downs in its business throughout the years. Nonetheless, it is shaping up to be a high-stature name in the industry. Due to its steady growth, Shake Shack can increase its competitive potential in the market.
Chipotle is a household name in the US market, well-known for its Mexican food items. The company operates almost 2,800 locations in several countries. Primarily, it competes in the US market, where it faces significant competition from various names. These names also provide an alternative to its products. A list of Chipotle’s top competitors and alternatives is available above.