Qdoba Mexican Grill has signed a multiunit franchise deal in Canada, marking the fast-casual Mexican chain’s first foray into an international market, the company said Tuesday.
The Denver-based chain has signed the agreement for London, Ontario, with the first location there scheduled to open next week. In December, it quietly opened its first location in Canada in Brandon, Manitoba, as part of an agreement with franchise operators Laird and Tracy Lidster.
Qdoba director of franchise development John Dikos said the company has not revealed the number of locations planned under the agreement in Ontario. The franchise group there is QNorth Development Corp., under principal Leo Strathakis, whose company operates roughly 20 restaurants under a number of other brands in Canada.
Like many U.S.-based chains, Qdoba is exploring growth around the world, but so far Canada is the only international market the brand is actively developing, Dikos said.
Canada offers Qdoba plenty of room to grow, he said. The fast-casual segment as a whole is still relatively new in Canada, with only a handful of U.S. concepts. Chipotle Mexican Grill, for example, has opened five restaurants there over five years.
Qdoba sees Canada as a franchise market, and the chain plans to work only with experienced Canadian operators, Dikos said.
The chain, which is owned by San Diego-based Jack in the Box Inc., has not revealed specific growth plans for Canada, but this year plans to add 70 to 85 locations in North America.
“Qdoba is excited to continue our growth beyond the U.S. border, and franchisees like Leo Strathakis of QNorth Development Corp. in Ontario are helping to pave our way,” Dikos said. “We will continue cultivating franchise partners in the U.S. and internationally that exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for food along with a track record of success in the restaurant industry.”
For the grand opening in Ontario, the restaurant plans to give one free entrée to the first 20 customers each day of opening week, March 18-23. The first 500 Ontario customers who register with Qdoba Rewards will receive a free burrito when they purchase their next burrito, and registry during opening week offers an opportunity to win free entrées for a year.
In the U.S., Qdoba operates or franchises more than 600 restaurants in 44 states and the District of Columbia.