When Brandon Graspointner was getting ready to graduate in 2006, two things kept running through his mind: spicy nachos and steaming burritos. Well, what college student doesn’t think about food? But Graspointner’s interest was more professional than prurient. The business major was in a class on entrepreneurship and studying franchises. His family was in the fast food business, so that subject seemed like a natural fit. He decided to study Qdoba Mexican Grill. He, of course, conducted thorough research by eating there every day for a week, but in the end it paid off. He not only completed his class project, he found a career. Graspointner returned home to California and opened his first Qdoba franchise in central California—at the ripe age of 23. He now owns eight Qdobas in the valley regions near Fresno and Sacramento. There are plans for six more such eateries.
Call him the Sultan of Salsa. The Czar of Chiles. There is not really an average day, he says, though often it’s spent on the road with his operations and marketing managers. “On normal days, we go in and check in on all the stores.”
The Qdoba menu relies heavily on its fresh sauces and salsas—three-cheese queso, fajita ranchera, poblano pesto, roasted chile corn salsa and fiery habanero.
“We’re a company that’s not as well known as some,” Graspointner says of the Colorado-based chain. “So we try to do community service—fundraisers, supporting local high school teams.”
In California towns with names such as Turlock, Atwater, Modesto, Visalia and Clovis, Graspointner spreads the word—and the queso sauce. That’s how he’s found success in the midst of a great recession. “Competitive prices, and you let the customer know you care about them as a customer. We pay attention to our product, our prices and our customer service. Then the customer will come back.”
All this isn’t too shabby for the kid who, while in elementary school, handed out french fries at the drive-thru window in his mom and dad’s McDonald’s. In the family sense, he’s a chipotle off the old block.