For over 30 years in the business, Wahoo’s Fish Taco has been a Southern California favorite that reels in customers with their delicious fish tacos and ambiance that makes you like you’re on the beach with big waves are right outside. This restaurant is located in states around the United States and in Japan, but was founded in Southern California.

How much does it cost to open Wahoo’s Fish Taco? Expect to invest $561,500 to $822,500 to open a unit. The franchise fee is $40,000.To franchise this fast casual Mexican food chain, you’ll need a liquid capital of only $60,000 to $100,000. This is significantly lower liquid capital requirement that’s close to $250,000 for most restaurant franchise opportunities.

Eager to know more about Wahoo’s Fish Taco, including the fees and challenges (like net unit closures) of the restaurant? Read my full-guide below. Take our 7-minute franchise quiz to find out if a Wahoo’s Fish Taco location is right for you.

Financial Requirements and Fees

Fees / Expenses Financial Amount
Liquid Capital $60,000 to $100,000
Total Investment $561,500 to $822,500
Franchise Fee $40,000

Wahoo’s Fish Taco has not officially disclosed their financial requirements when it comes to franchising their business. This is an estimate. In addition, Wahoo’s also require a royalty fee of 5% and ad royalty fee of 2%. This is a standard royalty fee in the franchise restaurant industry.

According to the companies most recent franchise disclosure document, you’ll also need to pay a software license fee when you’re introduced to the system. This software fee will not cost most than $5,000 initially and $100 monthly.

Another expense to keep in mind is that there could be maintenance requirements during your franchise term. These maintenance requirements could include putting up new signs, updating decor, menu. These expenses will not exceed $25,000.

Wahoo’s also uses the Positouch cash register system to accept customer payments. You’ll need to purchase 3 of these cash registers for a total investment of $20,000 – $25,000. It will cost another $1,000 – $2,000 to setup a virtual private network in the restaurant.

Average Sales / Revenue per Year

It’s difficult to state what Wahoo’s Fish Taco’s revenue are annually when this data is not made available to the public. However, the last known information regarding this food chain’s revenues were in 2017 where they were reported to generate $65 million in sales.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco Franchise Facts

Total Units 48
Incorporated Name Washoo’s Fish Taco
Franchising Since 1994
Industry Fast Casual Restaurant
Subsector Food and Beverage

In 1988, brothers Wing Lam, Eduardo Lee, and Mingo Lee decided to put up a fish taco business in Southern California that was reminiscent of the fish tacos they used to eat as snacks from vendors after surfing in the Baja Peninsula when they were little. With the experience they have from helping out in their family restaurant in Newport Beach, Shanghai Pine Gardens, along with their Brazilian and Chinese roots, the first Wahoo’s Fish Tacos was born in Costa Mesa, California.

They named the business Wahoo’s because of the type of fish they use in their tacos. Although depending on the availability, they also use Mahi-Mahi. Other items on their menu include tacos, enchiladas, soups, salads, burritos, and protein bowls. Customers can also choose other types of protein to use on all of these items other than fish. They have pork, carne asada, carnitas, shrimp, tofu, and vegetables as other options.

What catches people’s attention other than the food that Wahoo’s Fish Taco serves is the décor that fill the place. The design of their stores is that of a surfer’s paradise. It has surf stickers all around and makes one feel like they’re dining at a hut just outside the beach.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco is also known to attract the extreme sports community. Their first location is close to Billabong and Quicksilver headquarters. They’re also known to sponsor surfing competitions, X-game events, charities, musician showcases, and local “athletes of the week”. Their involvement in the community along with their love for healthy eating has built them a cult following that even the Los Angeles Times did a write-up of them in 1991.

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One event that Wahoo’s Fish Taco was recently known for is their help during the pandemic. Wahoo’s, along with other organizations, partnered to create meals for front liners last April 2020. This event known as the California Love Drop was able to deliver 11,000 meals at 61 locations.

Wahoo’s Fish Taco has 37 locations and is found in Southern California, Northern California, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Texas, Hawaii, and Japan. There used to be more Wahoo’s locations. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, they had no choice but to close 12 of their units.

The brothers are still very much active in running Wahoo’s Fish Taco with Wing Lam being the face of the business and in-charge of their marketing.

To franchise Wahoo’s Fish Taco, you may contact them through the form they provide in their website or visit them at their office in Tustin, California.

How Much Does Wahoo’s Fish Taco Make in Profit?

Based on publicly available information, you can expect the average Wahoo’s Fish Taco to gross $1 million – $1.5 million in sales annually. The average profit margin of a fast-casual restaurant is 6% – 9% meaning could expect to realize profits between $60,000 – $90,000 per year as an operator.

There isn’t much information when it comes to Wahoo’s Fish Taco’s profit through the years since the company has not made these available to the public. This is an estimate based on industry averages for the fast-casual sector. More on this below, but Wahoo’s Fish Tacos has lost net locations the past couple years, meaning the revenue of some stores were likely even lower than this.

Advantages of a Wahoo’s Fish Taco Franchise

You might be wondering what you can get out of when you franchise Wahoo’s Fish Taco. Well, look no further. Here are some of the advantages you can expect when you open a location near your area:

Fresh and Healthy

Wahoo’s Fish Taco is known for their fresh and healthy menu. For instance, you don’t just get beef, pork, and chicken options to use as protein for your rice bowls, salad bowls, and burritos. There are options such as shrimp, fish, tofu, and vegetables. If you’re looking for a low-carb option, you can opt for a “skinny” style which gives you a lettuce as a wrap rather than their tortilla ones.

With this kind of fast casual restaurant in your area, you can gather all folks looking for a good and healthy meal.

Family Business

A business that’s run by family to this day helps make this business worth checking out. This means great care is given to all their locations and in crafting their menu. Though there isn’t much information found on how the franchising process goes, we can expect that the training included is all about giving the best food and service to customers.

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Positive Reviews

Wahoo’s Fish Taco has many positive reviews on Yelp citing how delicious the food is. One said they loved how consistent the menu was and another one liked the atmosphere the restaurant gave off. Based on the positive guest feedback, you can expect positive reviews Wahoo’s franchise if you manage the operations well.

Community Involvement

Wahoo’s Fish Taco is always actively participating in charities and sponsoring organizations. Their helping hand has given support to front liners and extreme sport athletes. It’s a great way to give back to the community and build strong relationships with their customers which is a big reason as to why people love Wahoo’s.

Challenges of a Wahoo’s Fish Taco Franchise

Every business has a set of challenges, including Wahoo’s. So here are a few you can expect when you franchise with them:

Net Decline in Units

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos have lost locations over the past couple years. According to the franchise disclosure document, the company lost two franchise units and another two company owned locations in 2020. This is not inspiring performance even though restaurants faced many challenges over that time period. When a franchise restaurant loses net locations, it’s not a good sign of profitability.

Slow Expansion

Wahoo’s Fish Taco has been around since 1988. For over 30 years they still have far less than 100 locations in selected states like California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Colorado. The pandemic has even cut their units leaving the chain with less than 50 total locations.

But prior to the pandemic, expansion seems to be slow. They’re not as aggressive in selling more locations as with other business franchises.


When you step inside a Wahoo’s, you’ll be greeted by skateboards, surfing stickers, and things reminiscent of the beaches in California. Though the food is good and the décor is only portraying the surf life, it can also be quite messy to look at for consumers that aren’t from Southern California and don’t understand the vibe. The decor is not something you’ll have the ability to change. So make sure it resonates with you and local customers.

Limited Public Financial Information

There’s no way to decide if you’re hooked in becoming a franchise operator for Wahoo’s unless you study their financial information inside the FDD. Some businesses already make it available on their website so interested applicants can make a decision there and then. But not Wahoo’s. So if you’re interested, you may message them  to see if they’d be willing to send the latest financial performance data.

Is the Wahoo’s Fish Taco Franchise Right For You?

No franchise opportunity is right for everyone. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if this is the right choice for you.

  • Do you love fish tacos?
  • Want to work inside a unique Southern California styled shop with a surfer vibe?
  • Ready to work hands on in the restaurant industry?
  • Are you prepared to promote and market this business locally? There’s much less national brand awareness for this concept.

I would also strongly suggest working with a financial advisor look through it to see if it’s a franchise you can bring to your area. As mentioned, this is a concept with almost no brand awareness especially in parts of the midwest.

But as far as food and service is concerned, Wahoo’s Fish Taco has been in business for more than 30 years. They’ve proven an ability to sustain the business long-term even if growth hasn’t been there.

What is an alternative Wahoo’s Fish Taco franchise?

One taco business to consider that also serves fresh fish tacos is Baja Fresh. They started in 1990 selling Mexican food specifically tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos. But they also have salad and protein bowls with your choice of fish, carnitas, chicken, steak, shrimp, and veggies.

Baja Fresh has two options when you decide to franchise with them. A Single Restaurant costs $322,310 to $974,290 to open while an Express Restaurant is between $210,200 to $620,200 to operate.

We hope this guide has helped you make a decision when it comes to franchising Wahoo’s Fish Taco.