More From Qdoba 'Zees: We're Not Disgruntled
An offering at Qdoba, where franchisees have formed an association, a first for the brand.
“We do believe in the brand,” declared Ron Stokes, president of the newly formed Qdoba Franchisee Association and president and CEO of the system’s largest operator, with 55 stores. I called him because the announcement followed the rapid formation of two new franchisee groups for Tim Hortons, in Canada and the U.S., who have multiple grievances against their franchisor, and I wanted to see if the Qdoba situation was similar.
“That’s not at play here, fortunately,” Stokes said, also praising three executives at the brand, President Keith Guilbault, as well as its vice president of marketing and director of operations. Rather, he insists, Qdoba franchisees want to have their voices heard now that their parent company has retained Morgan Stanley to look at options, including a possible sale. “We thought it was time to ensure our interests were spoken for,” he says.
He acknowledged they had heard the news about the two new franchisee associations for Tim Hortons, and worried their association’s formation would be similarly viewed. “We didn’t want to send the wrong message,” he says, but felt it was important to organize. “It’s an uncertain time” at the brand.
The association was incorporated two weeks ago, and began calling for members about four to six weeks ago, with “well over 90 percent” of the franchisees joining so far, he says. Qdoba franchisees own and operate 340 of the system’s 717 total restaurants in the U.S. and Canada. “We represent half of the system. We want to make sure our voice is being considered,” Stokes says.
Jack in the Box Inc. acquired Qdoba from its founders in 2003, and franchising began in 1997. CEO Lenny Comma discussed the retention of Morgan Stanley in a May conference call.
Stokes says “we don’t know” the options being considered by the publicly held parent company, but they don’t necessarily include a sale. “A likely scenario would be to retain the brand and re-franchise,” meaning selling corporate stores to franchisees. “We would be in favor of that.” ‘