Wahoo’s Fish Taco is bringing its Hawaiian fusion flavors and surfer vibe to the East Coast with a franchise push into New York City.
The Southern California fast-casual chain’s move into Manhattan marks a big leap in the brand’s ongoing effort to boost franchise growth. In 2009, the chain launched a growth initiative that aims to add at least 100 franchise locations over five years.
Currently, the 60-unit chain includes 26 franchise locations, and growth has been limited to California, Hawaii, Colorado, and Texas.
“‘Go East,’ rather than ‘Go West,’ is our battle cry now,” Tom Orbe, Wahoo’s vice president, said.
Six new openings are planned in the next couple of months, including moves into the new markets of Nebraska and Las Vegas, as well as expansions in the existing markets of Los Angeles, Northern California and Texas, Orbe said.
Wahoo’s is also experimenting with a new prototype unit that includes a full bar, offering cocktails that fit its Mexican, South American and Asian menu themes, such as tequila-based margaritas, mojitos and martinis.
“It will be a limited full bar,” Orbe said. “We’ll do Polynesian-style drinks, like a Trader Vic’s, but at an affordable price.”
Brothers Wing Lam, Ed Lee and Mingo Lee founded the Santa Ana, Calif.-based Wahoo’s Fish Taco in 1988. The concept has a North Shore, Hawaii surf theme with an extreme sports element, such as skating, wakeboarding and snowboarding.
— Lisa Jennings