Co-Founder, Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
The story of Wing Lam, co-founder of Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, is the quintessential Orange County business success story. Wing and two of his brothers, Ed and Mingo, opened the first Wahoo’s restaurant in 1988. Their love of restaurants was all in the family.
Growing up in San Paolo, Brazil, the Lams spent their early years above their parents’ Chinese restaurant. After school, you could find the brothers in the restaurant peeling shrimp or washing dishes. In 1975, the family moved to Orange County, where their dad opened the famous Shanghai Pine Garden Chinese restaurant on Balboa Island. When the Lams weren’t studying or helping out in the restaurant, they surfed every chance they could.
The search for the perfect surf break brought them south to Mexico where they were first introduced to the fish taco—a specialty of charbroiled fish, salsa and tortillas. Twenty four years later, Wahoo’s has grown to over 60 stores and counting. The Lam brothers’ recipe for success is a fusion of old-fashioned hard work, dining DNA and a heaping measure of creativity. It is Wing’s talent for cooperative marketing that has helped drive Wahoo’s to its status as an Orange County icon today.
Wing has honed this cooperative marketing concept into an art. According to Rich Sherman, President/CEO, Omega Events, Inc.:
“Wing set the benchmark for what can be termed cooperative marketing; ‘I’ll help you now with your project and you can help me later with mine’. A simple concept, but it takes vision and the ability to fairly judge character in other colleagues. I’ve seen Wing turn down opportunities based on principal. The event & marketing business is ripe with sketchy projects, but Wahoo’s has a history of aligning itself with creative partners and successful events. Wing has a nose for the right deal.
Wing’s marketing prowess has helped to propel Wahoo’s to incredible success in Orange County and beyond. Wahoo’s would have not entrenched itself in the skate/surf community without Wing’s ability to bring good people together. If these leaders were not on board from the start, the Wahoo’s vibe might not have been seen as authentic, maybe being viewed like another restaurant gimmick. That point cannot be understated.” -April 23, 2008