Qdoba returns, promotes knockout


Victor Wu

Following renovations, Qdoba on Forbes Avenue reopened on Monday. Wenhao Wu | Senior Staff Photographer

About two months after Qdoba closed due to a miscalculated leap, the restaurant reopened Monday with a new interior, new promotions and new savily-themed tacos.

Qdoba had been closed since August when a Pitt student got stuck between Bruegger’s Bagels and Qdoba after attempting to jump between the two buildings. Police reports said the student was trying to impress a girl when he made the leap and got wedged between the buildings for about four hours.

In order to remove the student, paramedics and fire rescue had to knock out Qdoba’s interior wall. The student had a broken ankle from the incident, but Qdoba shut down for almost three months as it completed interior repairs.

Back at it on Monday as the dinner rush was in full swing, the line wrapped around tables and chairs. As customers waited, they chatted about the changes within the restaurant and admired a tapestry of the hole hanging on the wall. The kitchen staff worked quickly, pounding out orders one right after the other.

The restaurant has rolled with — and is trying to profit from — its months-long closure.

Having closed right before the release of the company’s new Knockout Tacos, Chad Brooks, the owner of Pittsburgh’s Qdoba franchise, decided to playfully rename the grand opening deal to Knockout the Wall Tacos. These tacos come in six different specialty flavors with names such as Bohemian Veg and Drunken Yardbird.

For the grand opening only, customers were given a free Knockout the Wall taco or $3 off any entree if they did not want the taco — which explains the lengthy line on Monday.

Ongoing promotions include a free drink with a student ID and email coupons sent for Qdoba rewards members. There is also a contest going on where one rewards customer who visits the restaurant during its first week open will win a free burrito every week for the rest of the school year.

Matt Hurley, general manager at Qdoba, said it was unfortunate the shop had to be closed during the first half of Pitt’s fall semester, but the break offered an opportunity not only to expand on promotions but also to refresh the store’s brand and lighten up the decor.

“The way we are looking at it is that it was really a blessing in disguise,” he said.

Brooks said that the restaurant served about 1,200 guests throughout the day Monday. Before the restaurant closed in August, about 400 or 500 students would visit the restaurant daily.

“Today, we sold more food in one day than we ever had at that store [per day] in 14 years,” Brooks said.

Brooks could not give an estimate for the cost of the renovations but said that it was much less than the loss of income over the 60 days that the store has been closed.

The redesign includes wooden bar-like seating to replace the booths and olive green paint with colorful artwork and the words “Taste Everything” now covering the walls. Qdoba added tiling to the drinks and condiments station for a more modern twist.

Nationally, the chain has been making similar changes in its restaurants — Brooks plans to incorporate the design at other Qdoba restaurants around Pittsburgh in the next year and a half.

“I think it’s a great conversion, [a] transition in terms of the look and the feel of the restaurant,” he said. “And not just for pictures. I think it’s much more of a social setting than before.”

Shannon McClenning, a senior history major, said she liked the new feel of the restaurant she has been coming to since her first year at Pitt.

“I love the new color scheme they have. It makes Qdoba look much nicer and modern” she said. “Although I do wish the booths hadn’t changed, I’m just happy that I can finally have my queso again.”

When the student attempted to jump the gap earlier this year, the Oakland Qdoba received national press coverage and generated significant buzz on social media.

Judith Baeth, a senior Spanish exchange student, said she remembered the story circulating and came with her friends on Monday to check out the recovered restaurant.

“I had seen all over Facebook that a man had gotten stuck in between the walls, and then I saw they were opening up the restaurant again,” Baeth said. “The promotions were all over the place, so I knew I couldn’t pass up free food.”

Qdoba’s management is planning to start a contest where people can take pictures with the mural of the hole and send them out via social media.

“Not only would that be super funny to see, but they should get the student who fell to sign it,” said Carly Nolan, a senior chemical engineering major on Monday. “Everyone would be lining up to take pictures with it.”

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