SANTA ANA Calif. The fast-casual Wahoo’s Fish Taco chain has brought in franchisee Tom Orbe to direct its first big franchising push with the goal of adding at least 100 locations over the next five years, officials said Tuesday.
The owner of a Wahoo’s Fish Taco unit in Temecula, Calif., for the past two years, Orbe was appointed vice president of marketing and sales earlier this month, but he is charged with driving nationwide franchise growth for the 55-unit chain, which currently operates in California, Colorado, Texas and Hawaii.
Known for its Mexican, South American and Asian flavors and surfer vibe, the Wahoo’s Fish Taco chain, based in Santa Ana, Calif., was founded in 1988 by brothers Ed Lee, Wing Lam and Mingo Lee.
Currently, Wahoo’s Fish Taco has 18 franchise locations, 13 of which are operated by one franchisee in Colorado.
“In the past, they’ve really only franchised with people they had a relationship with,” said Orbe. “But we want to go beyond the geographic areas where we have typically franchised.”
Co-founder Ed Lee, Wahoo’s director of forward planning — a title he prefers over chief executive — said the company plans to sign 15 franchisees in California before the end of 2009, with the first five locations to be determined by a lottery system among qualified candidates.
Another four franchise locations in Arizona will be determined by lottery in winter 2009. Officials said the initial franchise fee is $30,000 for the first store, and $25,000 for subsequent locations.
Though Lee declined to offer sales for 2008, he said business was strong last year and sales this year so far are only down about 4 percent as a result of the ongoing recession.
“We’re picking up steam, and I think the economy is stabilizing,” said Lee. “The response has been very strong” to the company’s franchise offering.
One corporate location is scheduled to open in 2010 in Orange, Calif., but the main emphasis will be franchise growth going forward, Orbe said.
Prior to joining Wahoo’s, Orbe was vice president of sales, product development and marketing for Kawasaki Motors Corp. U.S.A.
Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]