Next month Alioli will open a new bakery and commissary double the size of the current one, Owner Hazel Cheung said. The new wholesale operation at Wong Chuk Hang, Aberdeen, will be 3500 sq ft with 12 staff “if we can find them. We can never find enough staff,” Hazel said.
“Unlike the previous operation, where we took over an existing kitchen, the new facility has been designed to meet our requirements. This will significantly improve our capacity and we will be able to make a wider range of products”. The new kitchen should also be a nicer place for staff to work.
Wholesale sales to restaurants, hotels, clubs, companies, schools, and corporate and party catering is the strongest side of the business, “growing at more than 10 per cent a year, aside from the inevitable ups and downs”. Few Sai Kung people realise this, seeing just the retail patisserie in the central square. This has four bakers and counter staff at present, but she needs two more.
Hazel and her husband Philip acquired the Alioli business from the Rileys (the original owners) in 2005. Hazel says she is Hong Kong born of Indonesian Chinese parents. Philip is English and self-employed as a business consultant. Previously a housewife, writer and small-scale caterer, Hazel said she had no experience running such a business and has learnt on the job over 12 years. “It is a lot more complicated than it appears. We try to make everything home-made style.”
Alioli in Sai Kung has been on the same site since 1986. The landlords, known as the Li family, are reasonable, Hazel said.
She said that while the business is growing, she would be willing to sell outright or the retail or wholesale portions, or take on a partner to help her manage the growth. She wouldn’t be drawn on price. “We can discuss that privately. I want to expand, but I have my limitations.” Management of the business is demanding and chill-out holidays are beyond reach.