Interview - Michael Khatib - Looma's
Looma’s is a Sydney based patisserie wholesaler specialising in a wide range of products – cakes, croquembouche, macarons, pies, tarts, pastries and more – all baked daily at their commercial kitchen in Bankstown, Sydney. Recently, we spoke with Managing Director Michael Khatib and learned a little more about the wholesale pastry business and how Looma’s customers happily come back for more.
FFW: We’re impressed with Looma’s mouthwatering selection of pastries, macarons, tarts, profiteroles, pies and quiches. How on earth do you expect people to stick to their diets when faced with these tantalising goodies?
LOOMA’S: Food is one of the pleasures of life and it’s there to be enjoyed ... everything in moderation.
FFW: Are Looma’s products really made to traditional French recipes?
LOOMA’S: Yes, all our products are traditionally French. Our Head Chef Ibrahim Khatib trained at a French patisserie and mastered the art of making macarons, croquembouche and pastries and this shows with the great feedback we’re getting from our customers. I think there’s a gap in the market in Sydney when it comes to top quality French pastries – and that’s what we are targeting.
FFW: What kinds of foodservice businesses buy Looma’s products?
LOOMA’S: We supply to hotels, caterers, food distributors, clubs, schools, function centres and busy cafes.
FFW: Why are macarons attracting such fame and notoriety? We know they’re incredible but why do you think they are the new latest and greatest fad in Australia?
LOOMA’S: I think the fact that they’ve been widely shown on TV shows like Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules has played a big role; this kind of exposure has a massive impact.
Many people have commented that it’s just a fad and they will die out, but I don’t take this view. The fact that McDonald’s has introduced them is telling us something. In France and other European countries macarons are sold everywhere. For example, they’ve been in McDonalds outlets in France for years, and it’s likely that this will continue in Australia. My view is they will continue to be popular, just like muffins or friands have been around for ages and are still sold in almost every cafe.
FFW: Do corporate clients order from you?
LOOMA’S: Yes, corporates love our party packs. Although we are not a fully-fledged office catering company, we offer finger food and sweet treats that most corporates are looking for in day to day meetings, and we have the customer service and convenience to supplement our product. Our customers include Perpetual Trustees, Qantas, Accor and dozens of others.
FFW: Do you notice an increase in orders for certain products at different times of year such as when the weather turns cold?
LOOMA’S: Generally, people tend to eat more in winter so we get really busy in the winter months and it continues all the way to Christmas, really. We sell a lot more pies in winter than the warmer months.
FFW: What kinds of retailers are stocking Looma’s products?
LOOMA’S: There are numerous cafes around Sydney that stock our products, and we supply a wide range of products such as pastries, pies, tarts, macarons, quiche etc. Some of our customers include:
- Michel’s (various outlets around Sydney)
- Coffee Emporium (various outlets around Sydney)
- Presse Cafe (various outlets around Sydney)
- Brendan Dewar Patisserie (St Ives)
- Cafe Aurore Liverpool
- Atmosphere (South Strathfield)
- The Mill (Milperra)
- Your Exquisite Cake (Castle Hill)
- Ivy Patisserie (Sutherland)
FFW: How are Looma’s products being used in foodservice businesses?
LOOMA’S: Our products are used for all sorts of functions; some are retailed at cafes, hotels use our products for their banquets, function centres buy desserts for weddings, food distributors distribute our macarons, cake slices and friands to all sorts of their own customers. So our products have a wide reach of end customers.
FFW: Do you offer any gluten free products?
LOOMA’S: Yes our friands and most of our macarons are gluten free. The gluten free phenomenon is something that food suppliers can’t afford to ignore any more.
FFW: What makes a great day at Looma’s for you?
LOOMA’S: I would say the buzz that’s created when orders are pouring in, the chefs are going mad, the phone is ringing off the hook; it creates for a crazy but fun atmosphere, and at the end of the day we all have a feeling of accomplishment. We make a particular effort to reward and celebrate with our staff.
FFW: Do you personally ever have a private moment where you can sit and enjoy your favourite Looma’s product?
LOOMA’S: All the time! But we don’t really ‘sit and enjoy’; we eat on the run in the kitchen and around our factory when pastries just come out of the oven. There’s nothing better than a fresh berry Danish with a coffee in the morning.
FFW: Are there any exciting new developments that you can tell us about?
LOOMA’S: We’re really excited for the next 2 or 3 years. We have developments planned for both wholesale and retail.
For wholesale we plan to continue to increase our product range. We would like to introduce cake slices, something that all our customers ask about. We are also going to develop a customised ordering system to better streamline our ordering and fulfilment process. I have a Software Engineering major from UTS and worked as a software developer for around 5 years before starting this business, so I will be developing the software from scratch. Although it will take a lot of time, there are huge benefits in creating customised software to suit our business, especially to streamline processes to allow for quick growth.
In the retail space, we plan on opening store fronts so we can offer our products direct to retail customers. At the moment, retail customers order online or over the phone and either have their products delivered or pick up from our factory. We want to bolster our retail presence with store fronts in key areas of Sydney.