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Last Update: Thursday September 23, 2021

Key Idea: Find Fun Ways To Measure Success

To grow you must set standards then measure to insure that quality is delivered. 

Key Question:


Put processes in writing and then find ways to measure success.

Q: Why did Steve insist upon putting together the Wahoo's training manual?

A: When Steve arrived, Wahoo's was already a success. But, all the processes were in the minds of Wing, Mingo and Ed. Steve did not try to change anything, he simply documented EVERYTHING. He put the details in writing so he could go off to new locations and make the place work without Wing or Mingo or Ed being around.

Q: Describe the measurement example Steve told us about.

A: Steve has the ten-second rule. It's not the ten-minute rule, it's the ten-second rule. He showed us, on tape, how long ten seconds really is. He said, "Ten seconds is the maximum amount of time a customer will stand in front of the register before somebody approaches them. Ten seconds is the maximum amount of time that the cook will look at a ticket that comes into the line and know exactly what needs to happen.

Q: Is this a trainable goal?

A: That is the beauty of it. It is a perfect, fun goal for everyone to work on all through the day. Wahoo's is not fast food, it is quick food. There's a difference. Fast food is usually cooked ahead while quick food is cooked to order. This is the key reason the ten-second rule is so profound. Every single person who comes into Wahoo's gets to decide what they want to eat and it will be fixed after they order it. The customer arrives at the cash register and the multi-step process swings into action with the ten-second rule applied all along the way.

Steve also tells us that every skill he teaches can be taught with one page of instructions. He makes every task small enough for a person to grasp quickly and master quickly.

Wahoo's is about an experience and that includes fun. There are enough surfers and other boarders eating in most locations to give the place it's sporty feel. This means when you go in, you don't feel as if everyone left their white-collar desk job to come have lunch. The founders never wanted to put a wet blanket on the fun feelings brought in by customers. They want the employees of Wahoo's to feel that they are part of the sport. To do this and to make learning fun, they have found some fun ways to measure success.

Think about it

What would happen to your business if you went off for three months? What would happen if you left and never came back? What do you need to do now so that your business can continue without you?  What can you think of to measure that will create some fun for everyone, including 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

Find Fun Ways To Measure Success

HATTIE: Mingo, Wing, everybody says that you are the operations guy. What are some of the big ideas that people need to understand, that have to be put in place, to grow.

STEVE: The first step was to look at what made it successful when I came into it. What made it successful was the ownership and the way they treated the customer.

The other one was the standardization of everything that happens in the restaurant. From the recipe, from the spice measures, to the temperatures and so forth. I mean the whole process, the product your bringing in, your raw material, your style of service.

And most importantly, the training program. And that was something we worked very hard at. We constantly go back and tell people that you know you really need to take the temperature or taste it and not just look at it.

HATTIE: Wait a minute, what do you mean?

STEVE: We have a line check, for example, in the kitchen. The cooks need to do a taste test, a temperature test, a visual test, a tactile test. You've got to look at a product in every aspect. The back-ups, you know, do we have enough products? And it needs to be taught.

WING: So we have a manual for almost every part of the business and usually we've not only used ourselves as examples we've used employees that have been with us for almost 10 years to actually help us with almost every question and answer that a customer may have or anything that may be part of the operation from day to day.
STEVE: We have what we call the "10-second rule" at Wahoo's.

HATTIE: 10-seconds?

STEVE: 10-seconds. 10-seconds is the maximum amount of time a plate of food will wait in the pass-through. 10-seconds is the maximum amount of time a customer will stand in front of the register before somebody approaches them. 10-seconds is the maximum amount of time that the cook will look at a ticket that comes into the line and know exactly what needs to happen. We train everybody this way; we say "Okay everybody quiet for 10-seconds." And people realize that 10-seconds is a lifetime. (Silence) Right... HATTIE: That is a long time.

STEVE: Case in point. Absolutely, and we do that very thing. And we demonstrate, we live what we preach, number one. And lead by example. That's what we transmit to our management and the management transmits to the employees. And that's what you look out there, you look out there and you really see 350 potential general managers. Because everybody is accountable for what they do, but they have clear expectations that way.

HATTIE: All those little details.

STEVE: Right

HATTIE: You wrote them down.

STEVE: Absolutely! We had created a training program that's based on single page modules. Everything that one needs, pretty much, can be put on one page... otherwise don't bother. So, some of them the print is really small so that it can fit on one page... but for the most part we have accomplished that.

HATTIE: What do you think they do different? What is it?

EMPLOYEE: The difference is that they, the procedures are step by step. The way they handle the people, the way they give out priorities to the employees, to the customers.

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