Education Sessions Schedule

Everyday I'm Hustling: A Conversation with Industry Giants

Legendary leaders in the Texas restaurant industry will be led in a moderated discussion about why they got into the business and what they've learned along the way. All panelists will be current Hall of Honor members. 


Monday, July 16, 2018


10:30am - 11:15am


Silicon Hills Tech Stage


Matthew Mabel, Surrender, Inc.
Creed Ford III, Ford Restaurant Group
Skeeter Miller, The County Line
Russell Ybarra, Gringo's Tex-Mex | Jimmy Changas


Matthew Mabel

Matthew Mabel founded Surrender, a leading Texas based hospitality and management consulting firm, in 1991. His life’s work is advising successful restaurateurs to maximize harmony, freedom, revenue, profits and unit growth. He encourages independent, multi-unit restaurant company owners to be as good to themselves as they are to their guests. Surrender develops custom programs using their Management Power, Revenue Builder, Creating Consistency, Restaurant Reinvigorator and High Profile Start Up processes. He accelerates results by working with ownership, senior management and unit level management teams in operations, organizational development, strategic planning, concept and management development.

Creed Ford III

Creed Ford III

Creed Ford III grew up in Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Economics.  After graduating, he began his career in the restaurant industry as a General Manager at the Pelican’s Wharf Restaurant in Dallas, Texas.  In 1976 he joined the management team at the first Chili’s Grill and Bar restaurant.  While at Chili’s, Ford held leadership positions from General Manager to Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President and Director of Brinker International Inc., formerly Chili’s, Inc.  While at Brinker as COO, Ford with the Brinker team established the casual dining giant as one of the most successful multi-concept restaurant companies worldwide.

In 1997, Ford left Brinker and became a franchisee of Chili’s Grill and Bar with Lynn Ford, President and majority owner of Rudy’s Country Store and Bar·B·Q and Ozona Grill and Bar. Ford Restaurant Group built 11 Franchise Chili’s throughout small towns in Texas and eventually sold them to Brinker International.

Ford co-founded Fired Up, Inc. in 1997 by purchasing the seven-unit Johnny Carino’s Italian Kitchen chain of Italian restaurants.  After redefining Carino’s to Johnny Carino’s Country Italian, Ford and his partners expanded Johnny Carino’s to over 170 restaurants in domestic and international markets. Fired Up Inc also owned Kona Ranch Steak house, Gumbo’s Louisiana Kitchen and the Brown Bar.  Due to the recession in 2008 and the downturn in casual dining economy Carino’s filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and was sold to a Carino’s franchisee who owns the brand today.

During his 43 year career, Ford has been involved with numerous different restaurant concepts either through ownership, as an operator or investor. From being part of restaurant startups, public offerings, acquisitions, re-branding and restructuring Ford has seen the industry through many stages and situations. He is the former Chairman of the Texas Restaurant Educational Foundation. Ford is a Board Member of Nolan Ryan Beef Company, TC4 Restaurant Company and Little Woodrows Inc. Ford is also currently active in his support for Texas A&M  University, operating Ford Llano Ranch and working with various charitable organizations. Creed Lives in Spicewood Texas with his wife Lynn, they have two children Harper Ford Rehme and Creed Ford IV you are both partners in Ford Restaurant Group.

skeeter miller

Skeeter Miller

Don “Skeeter” Miller is the owner and president of The County Line, and is a 2014 inductee to the Texas Restaurant Association (TRA)'s Hall of Honor. Skeeter was attending The University of Texas when the County Line first opened in 1975. He was hired as their first dishwasher 41 years ago. Ten new restaurants later, Skeeter was named President and continues to have full responsibility of the day-to-day operations at all of the restaurants, as well as supervision of all franchise locations. In 2010, Skeeter took home TRA’s Restauranteur of the Year. Skeeter volunteers as the State Director for the Texas Restaurant Association and is in his fourth year as the President of the Austin Restaurant Association. He is a member of TRA’s President’s Council and Political Action Committee. He is also on the Board of the Austin Hotel and Lodging Association, TRA and the TRA Education Foundation. Skeeter was recently featured on Food Network and represented the State of Texas as a featured chef at the Toronto Food and Wine Festival.

“Advocacy is a major part of our industry, and as president of our association, I take great strides to work alongside our local, state and federal authorities in order create relationships that help bring about laws that work the good of all. The most important thing is giving back to the communities that have supported me throughout the years.”

russell ybarra

Russell Ybarra

Growing up in the restaurant industry through his father’s restaurants, Russell started in the kitchen washing dishes and learning first-hand all facets of the industry. Gringo’s came to life in 1993 when Russell had the opportunity to branch out on his own. Taking over a building that had housed four failed restaurants, Russell applied his philosophy of serving the highest quality Tex-Mex at the lowest price possible to the new venture. The community responded and Gringo’s is still growing; now thirteen locations, plus, sister concepts: Jimmy Changas, The Lunch Box and Burger Libre. 

Twenty-five years later, Russell’s passion remains the same… Focus on the food and the folks who pay his paycheck – the Guest. Take care of what is important and the rest will fall into place. “I believe that in order for a business to realize its true purpose, their primary focus must go beyond profits.” ~ Russell Ybarra