Gringo’s Success Comes From Taking Care of Workers

Russell Ybarra likes to brag about his MBA, only his stands for Mop and Bucket Attendant. He earned it at his dad’s La Porte restaurant, El Toro.

Sitting today in the headquarters of his restaurant empire, called the Tex-Mex Institute, Ybarra recalls some not-so-pleasant memories from when he first tried to prove himself. He struggled with his first food business, made some poor decision and focused on the wrong priorities.

“I got married at 18, I had two kids by the time I was 25, I lost a house to foreclosure when I was 26, and I returned a vehicle because I could no longer afford the $420.91 payment. You always remember the hard numbers,” he told me. “Whenever I focused on making money, I didn’t make any money.”

Ybarra looked again at how his father operated El Toro. Ybarra had worked full time there after graduating high school, and he remembered how his father spent profits to help build a church, sponsor a little league and care for employees.

When Ybarra tried again to open a restaurant in 1993, he had a whole new plan. “I was no longer going to focus on making money. I was going to focus on producing the absolute best product that I could and offer it at the absolute best value that I could,” he s