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Last Update: Thursday July 29, 2021

Key Idea: Refine A Trend

In the past 30 years this country has been obsessed with nutrition, health, diets and high performance foods.  Surfers want healthy food and Wahoo's serves it up.

Key Question:


The founders just happened to be immersed in a trend. and the jumped on it.   They are surfers who learned how to eat high protein, low fat meals that their parents cooked plus that they were able to get in Baja.

There is tremendous interest in what is healthy and what is not healthy.  Research  as early as 2004 showed that being obese is probably worse for a person's health than smoking!  One might ask rhetorically, "Does that mean that the people who gained weight when they quit smoking should go back to smoking?" Even though Americans are getting fatter every year, there are segments of the population who are leaner and more interested in fitness than ever, especially the athletes and the fitness specialists of every flavor.

Q: What do surfers want to eat?

A: Exactly what Wahoo's serves. They want clean food, piled high and priced low. While big food chains would probably never guess that young men would be concerned about nutrition, it is almost uncool to eat greasy food in front of other surfers. Clean food is food that feels clean in your mouth. It is not slick with oil or fat. The beans at Wahoo's for example, have no lard while traditional Mexican fare is loaded with lard. The fish tacos are topped with vitamin-filled cabbage rather than vitamin-vacuous lettuce.

Wahoo's tribe is made up of the 18 to 24-year old male which happens to be the biggest consumer of commercially prepared food in the US, according to the National Restaurant Association. They eat out 5.9 times per week.

This is THE reason Wahoo's grew faster than the young men dreamed that it would. It was an accident that they decided to launch a business that would serve up the perfect product, to the perfect customer from a perfect location. They refined a trend by coming up with tasty, healthy food for their own tribe.

Think about it

Was this luck? What can you do to make luck for yourself?

Clip from: Wahoo Fish Taco

Mingo Leo, CEO, the youngest of the three brothers

California, Hawaii, Colorado: Something truly special is happening here. The founders of this business are immigrants from Brazil, whose parents are from China.   New Americans continue to introduce new insights and fresh ideas. A beacon to creative people around the world, the USA, more than any other place in the world,  is a place to actualize dreams.

Meet surfers who are building a chain of surfer food joints, Wahoo's Fish Taco. They started from nothing and now have over 40 highly-successful restaurants. They are loved by their communities and respected by their industry. Wherever they go, they have an instant family, an immediate bond with anyone who owns a surfboard, skateboard or snowboard.  Brothers Wing Lam Lee, Ed Lee and Mingo Lee launched the business in 1988.  They adopted a fourth partner as a brother, Steve Karfaridis, a Greek immigrant who managed five-star restaurants in his homeland. He's the systems guru.

Follow the insights of these people and you and your business will prosper.

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Wahoo's Fish Tacos

Mingo Lee, CEO

2855 Pullman Street
Santa Ana, CA 92705

Visit our web site:

Office: 949-222-0670

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1991

Refine A Trend

HATTIE (Voiceover): Wahoo's serves clean food piled high and priced low. It's target, the 18 to 24 year old male is the biggest consumer of commercially prepared food in the US, according to the National Restaurant Association. They eat out 5.9 times per week.

CUSTOMER: Love Wahoo's... definitely.
CUSTOMER: It's embarrassing how much we come here, actually.

MINGO: Food is food and it is not rocket science, as much as I'd like to think it is. But, It was for us to package an experience. You know, you come to Wahoo's, sure the food's going to be good, we felt confident in our menu, but we wanted people to walk in and actually experience something. So what we wanted that to be was sort of a get-a-way to where our favorite spots were down in Baja.

ED: The cool factor about our restaurant comes with all the friends we have in the surf industry. They are the ones that give us all the materials. They are the ones that give us surfboards or snowboards or skateboards. So those are the things, they are the ones that are actually cool. We just happen to know the cool people in town and we sort of get to ride their coattails a little bit. (Music)

CUSTOMER: A place to go hang out and get great food.
CUSTOMER: A great hangout place... it's a surf restaurant.
CUSTOMER: Simple, but a lot of food.
CUSTOMER: It's healthy good food.
CUSTOMER: I could eat it every meal.
(Editor's Note: These people are some of the best surfers in the world!)

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