At the beginning of the pandemic, I was talking to my friend at KROQ in Los Angeles, and he said they were getting lots of calls about first responders. We took care of our employees first—they were given the chance to take all of the food they could. Then we took a huge leap of faith with the inventory we had left and started going out to local hospitals and delivering meals. Along the way, other vendors, charities, and churches pitched in.
I’m making the deliveries myself, because if we used one of the delivery companies, they would take 30 percent of the revenue. If I do it, I get to keep my 30 percent, plus my customers see me, the owner, making the delivery. You’ve got to be the face of your brand in times like these; you have to team up with your neighbors, get the job done, and figure it out.
The most important element of running a business after this will be safety. Your guests will have to feel safe coming back to your restaurants; that means distancing tables, wearing face masks, doing whatever you have to. If the customer doesn’t feel secure, they won’t come in.
The most important thing I’ve seen come out of this is people doing things for reasons other than personal gain. In early April, a local science teacher reached out to me on social media. He told me he and six others were using 3-D printers to make masks. I said, “What do you need?” And he asked me to use my network to find others who had these printers, and said he would share his software. Within seven days, his production went through the roof, and he had 100 people helping him. So, sure, there will be people selling hand sanitizer for $10 a bottle. But there are also people doing really good things for others.
And there are good things happening for Wahoo’s Fish Taco. We are in the early stages of the bidding process for a couple of airport locations. We have some locations that we’re looking at in Arizona and we are also going back into Austin. You have to have faith—some great things are in the works.
My first job was washing dishes for my father’s restaurant when I was a kid. My first paid job was working as a junior lifeguard at 14 years old.
Besides the fish tacos, my favorite thing to eat is rice and beans. That’s comfort food—it’s what I grew up eating in Brazil.
I love Mediterranean food and Vietnamese food. I love the freshness, the cucumbers, the greens, and the proteins, some mint leaves.
They have to pivot. In other words, if people aren’t coming into your restaurant, you have to go out and get them, whatever that means. Figure out what it’s going to take to move the needle.
I like to surf. Surfing is very much like yoga—it gives you that Zen moment of peace and quiet.