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Here’s Why Chipotle, Torchy’s Tacos, and QDOBA Keep Winning (And Other Mexican Chains Can’t Keep Up)

Source: Canva

Tired of seeing the same big chains dominate the Mexican food industry? Brands like Chipotle and QDOBA keep getting bigger, but here’s the thing — you can learn from them and turn their success into your own.

In this post, we’ll unpack how major Mexican QSR chains are leading the way with innovative tactics. You’ll learn:

  • The three key factors that make Chipotle, Torchy’s Tacos, and QDOBA the leaders of the pack
  • Why music might be your secret weapon in the quest for profit
  • Plus, how to implement these tactics for yourself and boost your own restaurant’s performance

Ready to learn from the best? Here’s what you need to know.

The Power of Being Different — How Chipotle Breaks the Mold

Source: Chipotle

To say Chipotle is successful might be the understatement of the year. They do $6 billion a year in revenue, have over 2,500 locations, and even trade on the S&P 500.

But what’s the secret behind their rapid growth? 

  • Is it their detail-oriented, 39-point checklist that they evaluate managers with to ensure everyone is reaching the same high-quality standard?
  • Is it their wise investment into drive-thru lanes, or Chipotlanes, during and post COVID?
  • Or perhaps their popular plant-based menu?

It’s all that and more. 

Chipotle has a unique way of creating a memorable dining experience for customers — thanks to the help of their full-time resident DJ, Chris Groub. He carefully selects and mixes music for every Chipotle location.

Chris uses his skills to craft playlists that suit Chipotle’s atmosphere (think: unique, upbeat, and cross-genre) and objectives. He doesn’t rely on personal taste or intuition — he bases his choices on scientific evidence that shows how music can influence people’s behavior and perception.

“We could’ve just piped in some satellite radio. It would’ve been cheaper. But if you’re creating a restaurant, you need the right atmosphere. We’re sticklers for detail. We wanted something that belonged just to us.” —Chris Arnold, Chipotle Spokesman

One study found that playing classical music in a wine store can make customers buy more expensive bottles. Another showed that playing soft music in a restaurant can make the food taste better. These findings suggest that music can have a powerful effect on how people enjoy their meals and how much they spend.

This applies to your restaurant too. What kind of mood do you want to create for your guests? What kind of actions do you want to motivate them to take? 

For example: If you own a formal Mexican restaurant, you might want to play some classical music to create a sense of elegance and quality. Or if you run a QSR, you might want to play some lively reggaeton to encourage guests to eat faster and free up more tables.

How Chipotle Gives the People What They Want

Source: Twitter

Chipotle has also seen great success from its loyalty program. Launched in 2019, it now has more than 24 million members.

That’s a lot of customer data — data that Chipotle can use to understand food preferences, purchasing power, allergies, and other information. All of which can help inform marketing, upselling, etc. 

Customer data is worth its weight in gold to your marketing team. It enables them to offer personalized perks and coupons that customers actually care about — after all, your vegan customers won’t respond to a coupon for a beef burrito, and they might actually be offended.

Companies like Chipotle often leverage data such as:

Customer Data TypeNotes
Personal Data Name, contact information
Demographic Data Age, gender, income bracket, location
Preference DataFavorite dishes, allergies, table preference, preferred ordering channel
Ordering DataOrdering history, ordering frequency, dining frequency, average order value

If you haven’t started capturing customer data and implementing a loyalty program, you’re missing out. Not sure how to get started? We’ve got your back. Check out the link below.

Learn More: A Loyalty Program Just For You

Torchy’s Tacos Takes It Slow and Steady

Source: Torchy’s Tacos

You don’t have to have franchises in every state to be considered a successful restaurateur. A great example of a Mexican restaurant that is excelling at a more attainable level: Torchy’s Tacos.

They started as a food truck in Austin, Texas, in 2006. Today, they have 110 locations in 14 states. But they have never franchised — they’re simply focused on slow and steady expansion. 

In the words of Torchy’s CEO Mike Rypka:

“The plan was never to be this nationwide restaurant chain. I just wanted a brick-and-mortar place where I could provide some opportunities for people and serve food I was passionate about. I’m looking forward to continuing to develop our people. The more we expand, the more opportunities I’m able to create for folks.”

Torchy’s Tacos has a simple, but effective marketing strategy: make customers happy. They do this by offering high-quality food, friendly service, and attentive care. They also rely on word-of-mouth to spread the word about their brand and attract new customers.

They’re not afraid to embrace new technology either. They’ve invested in some smart solutions to improve their overall operations and efficiency. Here’s how Torchy’s did it:

  • Leverage the Latest Tech — A more advanced tech stack (RMS) helps Torchy’s manage their inventory, orders, and sales. This frees up staff time so they can focus on what they do best — providing a great dining experience with a human touch.
  • Customize Your Kitchen — The kitchen is the heart of any restaurant, which is why Torchy’s focuses on improving kitchen design for optimum space and workflow. This includes using vertical space for storage and having specific areas dedicated to tasks, e.g., one area for prep, another for plating, and so on.
  • Give To-Go Customers a Comfortable Experience — To-go orders are fast becoming Torchy’s most popular option. That’s why they opted to install to-go shelves and pick-up windows that make it easier for customers to collect their food without having to wait in line. 

These innovations have helped Torchy’s Tacos grow steadily and sustainably. According to Rypka, they expect to see a 10-15% annual growth rate this year (2023). Try implementing restaurant technology into your own business, and you’re sure to see similar results. Restaurant tech helps you drive up digital orders, delight guests with personalized rewards, and even cut labor costs. 

Learn More: Quick Service Restaurant Management System

QDOBA’s Fresh Take on Mexican Menus

Source: QDOBA Mexican Eats

You may have heard of another Mexican restaurant making waves — QDOBA Mexican Eats.

In 2022, they signed a deal for 2,000 new locations — on top of the 60 franchise commitments they made in 2021. But what’s the secret sauce behind this aggressive growth?

High-quality, fresh, and flavorful food. 

QDOBA Mexican Eats has won customer hearts and minds by using only fresh ingredients, made to order. As their website states, there are no microwaves, no freezers, and no can openers in their stores.

Their unique selling point is their high-quality food. To show how seriously they take it, they had James Beard Award winner and Emmy nominee Chef Katy Valazquez design their menu,  which includes their famous hero dish – free with every order — their delicious queso.

The key takeaway? Focus on quality food and quality ingredients, and your guests will keep coming back for more. That means taking time to fine-tune your menu. What are your most popular dishes? Can you make them even better at a cost-effective level — think fresh, locally-sourced chicken instead of frozen for example. Or guacamole sauce made in your kitchen instead of brought in by your supplier. 

Ready to Sit at The Winner’s Table?

What works for Chipotle, Torchy’s Tacos, and Qdoba might just work for you. By implementing curated music in your store, focusing on your hero menu item, and leveraging the latest in restaurant technology you too can keep winning. 

Get your free demo of HungerRush today and see how we can help you boost profits, streamline operations, and improve customer experience.

HungerRush lets you manage everything from first-party online ordering and delivery to personalized loyalty programs and done-for-you marketing. Designed by restaurateurs for restaurateurs, HungerRush helps you optimize your performance and profitability in an increasingly competitive industry.

Don’t Let Big Chains Have All the Fun. Demo HungerRush Today.

“Juggling between our front-of-house responsibilities while also trying to create engaging marketing promotions was taking a lot of bandwidth from my staff. HungerRush 360 Marketing, with its automated text and emails, is just what we’ve been looking for.” —Dorian Gomez, Owner, Xtreme Pizza

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