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The Qdefense Rests

Sandwich v. burrito: A nation decides.


The Loop's Qdoba and Saint Louis Bread Co. may seem plenty friendly, facing each other as they do across Delmar Boulevard, their outdoor seating areas within shouting distance of one another. But don't let the bonhomie fool you: Panera Bread Company, Saint Louis Bread Co.'s corporate parent, has filed a lawsuit against Qdoba.

In the suit, which was filed in a Massachusetts Superior Court, Panera argued that its lease with the White City Shopping Center ensured that the mall would not rent space to another sandwich shop; the fast-casual chain interpreted the clause to mean that it had dominion over all things bread and meat. So when the White City Shopping Center rented space to Qdoba, owned by San Diego-based Jack in the Box, Panera's yeast started to rise. The company spent some dough, hired some lawyers and took Qdoba to court, arguing that a burrito was, in fact, part of the sandwich family.

Not to be out-lawyered, Qdoba took the sandwich threat seriously, bringing in a host of expert witnesses that included everyone from culinary professionals to former officials with the United States Department of Agriculture. Expert witness Chris Schlesinger, a Massachusetts chef who owns the All Star Sandwich Bar (its motto: "Wrap-free since 2006"), testified in an affidavit: "I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian."

In the end, Superior Court Judge Jeffery Locke consulted Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for the definition of sandwich ("two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between") before rendering a judgment favorable to Qdoba.

"A sandwich is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos and quesadillas," wrote Locke in his opinion that a burrito was distinct from a sandwich. "[Burritos] are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice and beans."

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