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Another Shakeup in the Big Burrito Business World

Remember when McDonald's owned a stake in Chipotle? From 1998 to the mid-2000s, the folks behind the golden arches made decisions that helped the burrito company grow rapidly. Meanwhile, another burger-burrito pairing was helping enfold the nation in soft flour tortillas. Denver-born Qdoba was purchased by Jack in the Box back in 2003 and had been under the control of the San Diego-based chain ever since. But that changed earlier this week, after Jack in the Box sold Qdoba to Apollo Global Management LLC.

While Chipotle managed to hang on to its core identity by sticking with a small menu and refusing to add breakfast or drive-through lanes during the McDonald's years, Qdoba was a little more democratic in its growth, offering queso, quesadillas (maybe it was a Q thing), nachos and taco salads in crispy bowls. And in recent years, a nationwide store redesign saw many Qdoba outposts converted into cantina-style eateries with a more upscale design than the typical strip-mall box.

Chipotle and Qdoba have long been the Beatles and the Rolling Stones of the fast-casual burrito scene; you don't meet many diners who love them both equally, and Denverites especially seem to have strong opinions on the two homegrown chains. It's too soon to tell what the sale will mean for fans of Qdoba (clearly the Stones in this scenario), but Apollo Global Management's restaurant holdings also include Chuck E. Cheese's, if that's any indication. So maybe we'll see a Taco Bell-style Mexican pizza on Qdoba's menu at some point in the future. For now, we'll just have to be content with smooth, thick (and free) queso on our overstuffed burritos.

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