Though he’s a dad of three, Chris Mattatall and his family don’t usually make a big deal about Father’s Day. In fact, Chris has spent most Father’s Days working at one of the Tim Hortons restaurants he operates – just as his father did, and his grandfather before him.
You see, Chris’s family has deep ties to Tims. In fact, Chris’s grandfather bought the first-ever Tim Hortons restaurant in Hamilton, Ont., from co-founder Ron Joyce in 1967. The two were childhood friends from Tatamagouche, N.S., with a bond so tight that they worked out the details of the original restaurant sale on a paper napkin.
As they signed that napkin, generations of Mattatall family history were also written. Chris’s parents went on to help oversee 14 Tims restaurants, while Chris and his wife, Lenka, now operate nine locations in the Hamilton area, and his brother is responsible for another six.
Among Chris’s restaurants? That historic first Tims restaurant once run by his grandfather. And it was there that Chris’s 14-year-old son recently worked his very first Tims shift. It was a full-circle milestone that meant more to his proud dad than any Father’s Day gift could have.
When you got into the family business, do you remember how your grandparents felt?
My first restaurant was in Winona, Ont., in 1999. My grandparents came to visit and we had a small ceremony with cake.
But the cute thing is that they would drop into my restaurants all the time. Even maybe five years ago, my grandparents would go for a drive and have lunch in one of our restaurants. Half the time, they wouldn’t tell me they were coming. I’d show up to one of our restaurants and they’d be sitting there. I would always ask why they didn’t tell me they were coming – they didn’t want to bother me. But it was so nice to see them in the restaurants.
They were always very encouraging. I think they were quietly proud that a third generation was taking over.
And I was extremely passionate. I loved the business since I was a kid. I think they saw that.
Did you ever consider another career, or did you always know this was what you wanted to do?
To be honest, I always wanted to do this. We were at my dad’s house last year and my kids were reading my high-school yearbook – it said I wanted to be a Tim Hortons owner.
It’s not just a business to us. It’s kind of our way of life. I grew up in this business. So did my parents and my grandparents.
Many times, my parents will say, “we’re really proud of you guys – we know it’s a lot of work.” But I feel differently. I feel very fortunate to be in this situation, to be born into this family, and to be part of such a great brand. I also feel I need to contribute and make it an even better brand for my children.
And your kids are showing an interest in the business too?
Yes – absolutely. Through the pandemic, all three of our kids have been very involved with helping us prepare and deliver donations locally. We’ve been doing drop-offs at the hospitals nearby, COVID assessment centres, police stations, and schools. We’re trying to instill in our kids that business is important, but so is being involved in the community and giving back. I can tell they’re proud to be part of it.
My daughter is only 13, but she’s already doing all the Tim Hortons training videos. From watching her, I think she’ll be amazing at it.
And my eldest son just started working at restaurant No. 1 last week. I walked in there and it was the restaurant my grandparents operated in 1967. My father worked his first shift there as a baker when he was 16.
I just thought about how proud my grandparents would be to see that we’re continuing their legacy. Seeing my son there – it was very touching to see that.