Oh, so this is where Chipotle customers are eating

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Closing Bell: Qdoba Profits Off Chipotle Pain; Stocks Mixed

The first three months of 2016 were terrible for Chiptotle Mexican Grill(NYSE: CMG). The former market darling in fast casual put out its first quarterly loss as a public company. It also clocked in with a brutal 29.7% decline in comps, as a 21% drop in transactions and coupon-flashing patrons spending less combined to create one of the biggest falls in comparable-restaurant sales in eatery history. In other words, existing locations rang up 29.7% fewer sales than they did during the first three months of last year.

That's horrendous, of course, but where did those customers go? They didn't stay home or stop eating. If they had a burrito, taco, bowl, or salad craving they probably went somewhere else. Now that we're wrapping up this lamentable earnings seasons for Chipotle, let's take a look at where some of those hungry guests may have gone.

Qdoba

Chipotle made fast casual and "better burritos" cool on the way up, and one of the best coattail riders has been Jack in the Box's (NASDAQ: JACK) Qdoba. Its comps rose 2.1% in the 12 weeks ending April 10. This is stacked on top of an 8.3% increase a year earlier, so we're looking at an impressive 10.6% average increase over two years.

The strength at Qdoba helped offset negative comps at Jack in the Box's namesake burger chain. There are now more than 600 Qdoba locations, but that's fewer than a third of Chipotle's 2,066 outlets. Jack in the Box has plenty of expansion room left for Qdoba.

Taco Bell

Burrito buffs will argue that the chasm is wide when it comes to pitting the food quality at Chipotle to Yum! Brands' (NYSE: YUM) Taco Bell, but it's hard to deny the deals that bargain seekers can find at Yum! Brands' quick-service Mexican food chain. You're not walking out of Chipotle with a burrito for a buck anytime soon (outside of recent freebie promotions). One can argue that Yum! Brands is narrowing the gap. Chipotle's quality has been consistent over the years, but Taco Bell has been adding more items with broader appeal. It's still not there. It will never be there. However, head-turning additions including Doritos Locos Tacos, a creative breakfast rollout, and more recently the Quesalupa keep guests coming for more.

Taco Bell's comps rose a mere 1% in its latest quarter, but it's up 7% over the past two years. That's a big win when compared to Chipotle's 22.4% slide in comps over the past two years.

Chuy's

It may not be fair to compare Chipotle to table-service restaurants, but Chuy's(NASDAQ: CHUY) is not a sleepy, old-school operator. Chuy's is expanding quickly, and with most of its menu priced below $10 and a penchant for speedy service, it's a reasonable alternative for a lunchtime or festive dinnertime fix.

Comparable-restaurant sales climbed 3.2% in its latest quarter. Chuy's has now come through with 23 consecutive quarters of favorable comps.

There was a time when Chipotle was the champ of stringing together long streaks of year-over-year sales growth. However, after back-to-back quarters of double-digit percentage declines, some new leaders appear to be rising -- at least until Chipotle gets its act together again.

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RELATED: Chipotle closings because of E. coli
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Chipotle closings because of E.coli
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Oh, so this is where Chipotle customers are eating
Passers-by walk near a closed Chipotle restaurant on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood of Boston. Chipotle said late Monday that it closed the restaurant after several students at Boston College, including members of the menâs basketball team, reported âgastrointestinal symptomsâ after eating at the chain. The school said it was working with local health officials to determine the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A sign is posted on the door to a Chipotle restaurant, Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, in the Cleveland Circle neighborhood of Boston. Chipotle said late Monday that it closed the restaurant after several students at Boston College, including members of the menâs basketball team, reported âgastrointestinal symptomsâ after eating at the chain. The school said it was working with local health officials to determine the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A customer leaves a Chipotle restaurant in Seattle as the company started to reopen the outlets closed because of an E. coli outbreak in the Pacific Northwest, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Donna Blankinship)
Customers leave a Chipotle restaurant with food in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Chipotle started reopening its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday after an E. coli outbreak sickened about 45 people, a high-profile example of foodborne illnesses that are more common than the public realizes, health experts say. Forty-three outposts of the Mexican food chain in Washington state and the Portland, Oregon, area were closed at the end of October because of the outbreak that hospitalized more than a dozen people. The first restaurants opened for lunch Wednesday. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
A customer enjoys lunch at a Chipotle restaurant in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Chipotle started reopening its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday after an E. coli outbreak sickened about 45 people, a high-profile example of foodborne illnesses that are more common than the public realizes, health experts say. Forty-three outposts of the Mexican food chain in Washington state and the Portland, Oregon, area were closed at the end of October because of the outbreak that hospitalized more than a dozen people. The first restaurants opened for lunch Wednesday. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Rosanna Fleming enters a Chipotle restaurant for lunch as another customer enters a second door in the background in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Chipotle started reopening its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday after an E. coli outbreak sickened about 45 people, a high-profile example of foodborne illnesses that are more common than the public realizes, health experts say. Forty-three outposts of the Mexican food chain in Washington state and the Portland, Oregon, area were closed at the end of October because of the outbreak that hospitalized more than a dozen people. The first restaurants opened for lunch Wednesday. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
Workers clean inside a still-closed Chipotle restaurant Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Seattle. Health officials in Washington and Oregon have said that more than three dozen people have gotten sick with E. coli in an outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in the two states. More than 40 Chipotle restaurants remain closed in Washington state and the Portland area while authorities search for the cause. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2015, file photo, pedestrians walk past a still-closed Chipotle restaurant in Seattle. An outbreak of E. coli that originated in the Pacific Northwest has spread south and east and has now infected people in six states. New cases have been reported in California, New York and Ohio, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
A worker sits at a counter inside a still-closed Chipotle restaurant Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Seattle. Health officials in Washington and Oregon have said that more than three dozen people have gotten sick with E. coli in an outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in the two states. More than 40 Chipotle restaurants remain closed in Washington state and the Portland area while authorities search for the cause. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Workers clean inside a still-closed Chipotle restaurant Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Seattle. Health officials in Washington and Oregon have said that more than three dozen people have gotten sick with E. coli in an outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in the two states. More than 40 Chipotle restaurants remain closed in Washington state and the Portland area while authorities search for the cause. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A closed Chipotle restaurant is shown, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Federal Way, Wash. Chipotle closed 43 of its Pacific Northwest locations after the chain's third foodborne illness this year sickened about two dozen people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A pedestrian, right, walks past a closed Chipotle restaurant Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, in Seattle. An E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon has sickened nearly two dozen people in the third outbreak of foodborne illness at the popular chain this year. Cases of the bacterial illness were traced to six of the fast-casual Mexican food restaurants, but the company voluntarily closed down 43 of its locations in the two states as a precaution. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A sign posted on the door of a Chipotle restaurant in Portland, Ore. reads that the location is "temporarily closed due to a supply chain issue," on Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. An E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon has sickened nearly two dozen people in the third outbreak of food borne illness at the popular chain this year. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2015, file photo, a pedestrian walks past a closed Chipotle restaurant in Seattle. Washington state health officials say they have found no source for the E. coli outbreak related to Chipotle and the chain's Pacific Northwest restaurants could reopen later this week. Washington state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist says all the tests of food from Chipotle stores in Washington and Oregon came back negative for E. coli. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
A woman talks on the phone as she stands in the kitchen area of a closed Chipotle restaurant, Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, in Seattle. An E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Washington state and Oregon has sickened nearly two dozen people in the third outbreak of foodborne illness at the popular chain this year. Cases of the bacterial illness were traced to six of the fast-casual Mexican food restaurants, but the company voluntarily closed down 43 of its locations in the two states as a precaution. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Signage hangs from a closed Chipotle restaurant in Portland, Ore., Monday, Nov. 2, 2015. Chipotle voluntarily closed down 43 of its locations in Washington and the Portland area as a precaution after an E. coli outbreak linked to six of its restaurants in the two states has sickened nearly two dozen people. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)
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