Best Small Business of the Year
Matt Gillett wanted to turn his thirty years of restaurant management experience of the industry into his own restaurant. Matt teamed up with his long-time friend Travis Stoliker to open up Saddleback BBQ. Saddleback BBQ offers authentic Southern BBQ with a unique Midwestern flair, and the meat is all smoked on site.
How the SBDC helped
The Michigan SBDC was there to assist Matt from the moment he decided to pursue business ownership. His SBDC consultant helped him seek funding in two directions, by developing a loan package for startup capital and providing business pitch coaching to participate in ‘The Hatching’ pitch competition.
Saddleback BBQ now has 45 employees and 2 locations. Matt and Travis were awarded the Best BBQ in the Country in 2016. In the future, they are looking forward to continuing to grow and sharing their experience and knowledge with others.
With thirty years of experience in restaurant management, Matt Gillett wanted to turn in knowledge of the industry into his own restaurant. However, as Matt explored options to start his own business in the Lansing area he was having trouble landing on the right idea. By working with the Michigan SBDC, Matt was able to pivot his dreams into a BBQ restaurant. Early on, Matt was discussing his BBQ business ideas with his long-time friend, Travis Stoliker. Travis happened to be searching for new investment opportunities, and the two joined together to make Saddleback BBQ a reality, officially opening to the public in 2015.
Saddleback BBQ offers authentic Southern BBQ with a unique Midwestern flair, and the meat is all smoked on site. In just over two years, Saddleback BBQ has grown from a small cafeteria-style venue with eight part-time employees, to two restaurants with a dual concept of takeaway plus full-service dining. Between the two locations, Matt and Travis are able to employ thirty full-time and fifteen part-time employees in the Lansing area.
“Saddleback Barbecue was started with the simple goal of wanting to become not just the best barbeque restaurant, but the best restaurant out there,” commented Matt. “We really focus on challenging the traditional restaurant approach through technology, innovation, and continual improvement.”
Not only have Matt and Travis have mastered the art of creating the best barbeque (even being voted Best BBQ in the Country in 2016), but they have also mastered the art of creating an engaging organizational culture. The two entrepreneurs are extremely proud of the culture embodied by the team at Saddleback BBQ. They pride themselves on the remarkable customer service and the superior food that each guest experiences when visiting the restaurant. The duo also has a deep appreciation for their team of employees at Saddleback BBQ, who they consider family. The dedication and hard work their employees exude make the restaurant a special place to work.
“We work to make sure our employees know how appreciated they are. We host employee outings, parties and celebrations. Even more importantly, we try to build a culture that empowers our employees to grow within the organization,” stated Travis.
The Michigan SBDC was there to assist Matt from the moment he decided to pursue business ownership. He worked with SBDC consultants on the feasibility of several concepts, from full-service fine dining to a BBQ food truck fundraising venture. Initially, his biggest obstacle was obtaining financing for the meat smoker. His SBDC consultant helped him seek funding in two directions, by developing a loan package for startup capital and providing business pitch coaching to participate in ‘The Hatching’ pitch competition. After Saddleback BBQ was established, the SBDC continued to provide the foundational resources to help him to hire, onboard, train and pay his new staff when the restaurant opened.
“I reached out to the Michigan SBDC very early in the process of opening Saddleback BBQ. I didn’t have the knowledge on how to take the first step in opening a business. The SBDC was a resource to help me put together a business plan and see if opening Saddleback was even a possibility,” reflected Matt.
Looking towards the future, Matt and Travis are considering expanding into packaging their own barbecue sauces and rubs. They have even tossed around the idea of a restaurant school to train others who want to open their own barbecue restaurants.
To learn more about Saddleback BBQ, visit their website at www.saddlebackbbq.com, or even better, stop by one of their locations and taste their BBQ for yourself!