Will Denver Remain the Fast Casual Capital of the World?

Denver 16 street

Denver, Colorado is where many of today's most popular fast casual concepts got their start. 

Chipotle opened its first burrito shop in Denver in 1993.  However, the fast casual that started it all, is officially moving its headquarters to Newport Beach, CA and will be closing its home-based office in Denver.

"In order to align the structure around our strategic priorities, we are transforming our culture and building world-class teams to revitalize the brand and enable our long-term success," said Brian Niccol, chief executive officer at Chipotle in a recent press release. "We'll always be proud of our Denver roots where we opened our first restaurant 25 years ago. The consolidation of offices and the move to California will help us drive sustainable growth while continuing to position us well in the competition for top talent."

Chipotle will be transitioning both its Denver and New York offices to the new Newport Beach, CA office and to its existing office in Columbus, OH over the next six months. 

400 of its employees in Denver and New York will either be relocated or offered retention packages. 

But Chipotle isn't the only Denver-founded fast casual to make a recent headquarter move either. 

Another pioneering fast casual chain, Qdoba, which was founded also in the city in 1995 and was acquired by Jack in the Box in 2003, moved its headquarters to San Diego in 2017. 

Although these Mexican-inspired chains have moved headquarter offices from Denver, several big fast casual chains remain headquartered in the city. 

Smashburger's, which opened in 2007, HQ remains in Denver. Modern Market, which opened its first store in Boulder in 2009, is still based in Denver. Noodles & Company's HQ remains just outside of Denver in Broomfield and the Japanese fast casual Tokyo Joe's is based in the Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area, Englewood.

See what other fast casual chains remain headquartered in Denver at "Westword."