Lotus Bakeries NV
Head 15 miles north of Gent or 25 miles east of Brugge and you're
off the beaten path but, that's where one has to go to find the
offices of Lotus Bakeries, one of Belgium's biggest bakers of
cookies, specialty cakes and waffles.
Lembeke, a picturesque farming community of 3,000, seems to have
more cows than people but it's been home to Lotus since its founding
back in 1932. The head office/factory lies near the edge of town
along the main road. Homes mixed-in with fields of corn surround
Two signs in black near the top of the three-story building (built
in 1995) let visitors know they're at the right place. The reception
area is bright and modern and after checking-in with the friendly
receptionist I take a look at a display featuring some of the
company's products. More than 50% of the company's 153 million
euros in revenues is realized outside of Belgium.
As a rule of thumb, I receive warm welcomes at companies located
in somewhat rural, out-of-the-way locales and here is no different
thanks to Jan Boone, General Manager Corporate Services.
A total of 320 people work here with 200 of those in the adjacent
factory. Employee parking is free and plentiful, meeting rooms
are named after cookies, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace,
there are no onsite recreational facilities, no executive dining
rooms and no company cafeteria though there are break rooms.
There's no formal dress code, no corporate aircraft and if you
bicycle to work there's parking for your bike but it's not covered.
It's about a mile to the center of Lembeke, a 20-minute drive
to the nearest freeway and an hour's drive (about 45 miles) to
Brussels airport. Any employee perks? 30% off products at the
Publicly-traded Lotus was founded in Lembeke by three Boone brothers
back in 1932. Family members still own 58% of the company. CEO
Karel Boone occupies a middle office on the second floor. On
the wall behind his desk hangs a colorful contemporary painting.
I note the family pictures, computer and one plant (real). The
view out his window? Cornfields and houses. The oval-shaped table
in the first floor boardroom seats 10.
As I start to leave Boone presents me with a large grocery bag
filled to the brim with a wide variety of Lotus products. Wow,
it looks like it would be fun to sample all the various wares
but, I have zilch room in my panniers (saddlebags). I do however
manage to find room for some of the goodies in my backpack.
Later that night in my hotel room I sample some of the goodies
and go bonkers over the delicious caramelized cookies topped
with chocolate. I was skeptical when Boone, earlier in the day,
mentioned airlines using these cookies on their flights and because
of the many, many requests by fliers on where to purchase the
cookies, Lotus had to open a call center to handle all the requests.
After tasting them I now understand why.
Company website: www.lotusbakeries.com