Moe's Tops Chipotle as America's Most Popular Mexican-Style Chain

Moe's Southwest Grill on Facebook
Moe's Southwest Grill on Facebook / Moe's Southwest Grill on Facebook

Despite long lines at locations across the country and the company's ability to permeate popular culture (including a recent namedrop by Kanye West), Chipotle is no longer the most popular Mexican-inspired brand in America, according to the results of a survey conducted by Harris Poll and recently shared by Nasdaq. Claiming the top spot: Moe's Southwest Grill, a chain founded in Atlanta in 2000 that now has an estimated 600 locations compared to Chipotle's 1900.

The survey—which asked over 97,000 people to assess more than 3800 brands, including more than 60 restaurants—ranked Chipotle at number five, a drop for the company's three-year-run as America's most popular brand selling Mexican-inspired food.

Rounding out the top five is Taco Bell in second, Qdoba in third, and Baja Fresh in fourth. With over three times as many restaurants, Chipotle had much larger sales figures than Moe's in 2015 ($4.5 billion versus $640 million), but Moe's reportedly had a record expansion year with 70 new openings and the largest spike in brand equity of any other restaurant on the list.

And USA Today reports that the food safety and health issues that Chipotle faced over the past year contributed to its decline in popularity.

"Brand perception is down," an equity research analyst told the news outlet. "In retrospect, I just don't think they did enough to convince customers that Chipotle food was safe to eat."

[h/t Nasdaq]