Qdoba Mexican Eats has no plans to leave San Diego.
Post Jack-in-the-Box selling the fast casual brand to New York-based private equity fund Apollo Global Management Group for $305 million late last year, Qdoba likes the worker pool here and may want to open some outlets in the city. So, the company, which moved its headquarters from Denver to San Diego about 18 months ago, has decided to stay.
“We have found a great talent pool here in San Diego across all functions, specifically talent that is technically strong and also extremely energetic and with a positive spirit,” said CEO Keith Guilbault. “That is important to all of us at Qdoba: We want energetic, positive people on our team. We believe that creates a unique and different work environment where employees look forward to coming to work and they are better problem solvers and overall better teammates with one another.”
Although not in the immediate plans, Guilbault says Qdoba hopes to open some restaurants locally so that “people in S.D. can experience the fresh-made food as well.”
Building Support Team
First on the list of the company’s priorities is filling 100 corporate positions at its Kearny Mesa headquarters, Guilbault said.
“Right now, our real focus is in building the rest of the support team,” said Guilbault, who spent 12 years at Jack in the Box — where he held various positions including senior vice president and chief marketing officer — before moving to Qdoba as chief operating officer two years ago, followed by a run as president and now CEO. “Up until when Apollo bought it, we were within the Jack in the Box umbrella. So, many support functions were handled by a shared service across both brands. Now that we are our own company, we need those positions filled.”
So far, Qdoba has about 50 corporate employees in a number of posts including training, operations and marketing, to list a few, but, it will be looking to fill other positions that range from specialists to executive management. The plan is to have all 100 new jobs filled in the next six months.
Guilbault credits his experience at Jack in the Box with instilling in him the importance of having the right people in his corner. “It starts with the right team and the right work culture,” he said. “That is something I definitely learned at Jack. And, so far, I have to say, I have a great team that is real, authentic, and full of approachable leaders.”
Ali Sheppard, a New York-based restaurateur who’s worked with eateries like Chipotle and Tres Carnes, agrees with this philosophy.
“The most important part of any business is the people,” he said. “To continue to grow sustainably, you must build a culture of empowered high performers who truly understand a commitment to the mission. Servant leadership must be demonstrated so those who follow you understand your commitment to the team and overall organization.”