Trial by fire: Local BBQ entrepreneur navigates business growth by letting go

Mat Flosse, of Meatings, wielding his cleaver
Mat Flosse, founder and owner of Meatings, is keeping his tools sharp and his eyes on the future as he continues to grow and expand his business with the help of a great team.

Four years ago, Mat Flosse knew he had a choice to make – either continue working in the kitchen of his southern barbecue business, Meatings, doing everything from smoking the meat to scrubbing the pots, or focus his energy on being the leader his burgeoning company needed.

Already suffering from burnout from trying to keep on top of all aspects of the business, Flosse said he had an “aha” moment.

“I love the idea of growing the business and bringing in different kinds of people, nourishing relationships and being the front-facing person, which you can't do if you're in the back smoking meat all day and all night.”

HR leader Heidi Hauver, currently vice-president of people experience at Shinydocs, says that she counseled many founders through this stage during her time as head of HR and talent strategy at Invest Ottawa. Hauver explains that scaling any business requires a team and that the team should be built to round out the founder’s skills gaps.

'Embrace others'

“To truly scale your business, you can’t do it as a solo entrepreneur, you do need to embrace others and have them complement yourself,” she says. “Don't go out necessarily to find someone that's just like you, who has the same skill set, go and look for people who are going to complement you.”

Once Flosse made the first of several crucial hires, a kitchen manager, the impact was immediate. The food experience was elevated in a way that Flosse, a self-taught pitmaster, knew he could not have arrived at on his own. Building off that success, another chef and an event coordinator were added to the roster and Meatings flourished.

“Now, it's just my mentality to bring in people with expertise in these different divisions of the company, because adding these people, that's what's helping your business grow,” says Flosse.

Flosse empowers his team to make decisions but continues to lead by example, picking up a broom or scrubbing pots himself if needed. He is focused on building a company culture where employees will “wear the (Meatings) shirt or the hat outside of the business” because they are proud of the company and committed to its success. 

“My goal is always to try and retain my staff because I treat them like family,” says Flosse, “It’s the way that I have built the company over the years and then the staff care a lot more and work a lot harder.”

Unique experience

Meatings launched in 2012 after Flosse had spent years watching his father host backyard barbecue parties. After catering what he thought was going to be a one-off wedding event, Flosse saw the need for a company that could provide more than just delicious food, but also a unique experience for guests at any type of event. 

“So many couples that I was meeting with were saying that they were looking for something different. Being a foodie was getting a little bit more trendy and everyone is posting their food pics, so it's got to be a meal that's worth posting on social media,” says Flosse.

“What drives me is seeing the reaction, the gratification of somebody … who's had our food or services come up and give you a hug and say, ‘That was the best wedding meal I have ever had in my life.’” 

"What drives me is seeing the reaction, the gratification of somebody … who's had our food or services come up and give you a hug and say, ‘That was the best wedding meal I have ever had in my life.’"

With success in the catering business under his belt, Flosse’s natural entrepreneurial spirit told him to seek out more business opportunities.

Together with family friend and business partner Carol Hunt, Flosse opened the first Meatings restaurant on St. Joseph Boulevard in Orléans in January 2017. In 2020, Flosse chose to consolidate its first retail store, the restaurant, catering kitchen and offices all under one roof at a Canotek Road location, which became Meatings head office. A second restaurant at the Sensplex East followed in late 2021.

Today’s red-hot job market has not slowed Flosse down. In fact, Meatings has grown from 20 employees pre-pandemic to 50 workers today, in spite of the labour shortages plaguing the hospitality sector. Still, Flosse said he has had to turn work away because his team simply does not have the bandwidth.

“We don’t have as much staff as we would like to and having to say no to a lot of catering business is not fun for me,” he notes.

To fill some of the gaps on his team, Flosse has had to be flexible and has turned to some non-traditional options for sourcing staff. He has leveraged an employment program offered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and engaged with a local employment program called LiveWorkPlay, which matched Meatings with employees with intellectual disabilities (including autistic persons), who support the team by performing tasks that fit their abilities.

Every step of the journey has been a revelation for Flosse, as well as an exercise in letting go of what isn’t working to make space for what does.