SPRING 2018 FEATURED GUEST SPEAKER
Russell Ybarra grew up in the restaurant industry washing dishes and learning first-hand all facets of the business through his father’s company – El Toro Mexican Restaurants. He caught the entrepreneurial spirit early in his career and in 1986 started El Matador Foods, a tortilla factory in Baytown, Texas.
Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen came to life in 1993, when Russell had the opportunity to branch out on his own. With the help of his brother Troy, he took over a building in Pearland, Texas that had housed four failed restaurants and applied his philosophy of serving the highest quality Tex-Mex at the lowest price possible to the new venture. The community responded.
Today, Gringo’s has nine locations, including four franchised stores. In addition to Gringo’s, Russell and his team have developed two other popular Tex-Mex concepts – Bullritos®, a quick casual restaurant, and Jimmy Changas Mexican Restaurants.
Some 20-plus years later, Russell’s passion remains the same: Focus on the food and the folks who pay his paycheck – the guest – and take care of what is important, and the rest will fall into place. As president and CEO of Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen and Jimmy Changas restaurants, he considers himself fortunate to serve rice and beans for a living.
“I believe that in order for a business to realize its true purpose, the primary focus must go beyond profits,” Russell said.
In 2016, he was inducted into the Texas Restaurant Association Hall of Honor.