I want to know what’s going to happen in F&B in 2019. I don’t trust trend-forecasters or chefs or KOLs or people who have a lot of followers on Instagram to tell the future. I have this routine. Every morning, I get a raisin scone from Starbucks. Every morning, I peel it apart. The amount of raisins tells me about my day. Lots of raisins, day is going well. All scone dough and I go back home and give up. It’s not a bad predictor. It gives me a glimpse. But it’s not powerful enough. So I turned to a professional this year: Daisy, the tarot reader.
Daisy is not your average tarot reader. I found her after calling about a dozen other tarot readers in my neighborhood — there are a lot of tarot readers in my neighborhood — and getting rejected. No, they can’t tell me the economic future of an industry. No, they can’t predict how business will be in the hot pot category in 2019. No, we can’t take pictures of their sacred process. Daisy — Daisy said yes. She’s not afraid to read her cards and glean the secrets of the universe, for the low low price of 128rmb per question.
So I rounded up all the most pressing, burning questions about F&B in Shanghai and took them to Daisy for some insight about the Year of the Pig. Here’s what she said.
Format: Five cards: two for Starbucks, two for Luckin, one for the state of the coffee market in 2019.
Starbucks has one big advantage: they are the big player in the market. A lot of young consumers like them. The Nine of Swords shows that Starbucks will make some big changes because the market is getting more competitive. They are going to make some huge changes at the end of the year, like opening more online shops and adding delivery.
The Lovers card is a teenager, older than The Sun card that Luckin has, and it means that they are more popular. Their market share can’t be surpassed this year. This card also shows how Starbucks loves to learn and investigate the market before they make a big change.
Luckin definitely has its own fans, but it doesn’t have the range of customers that Starbucks has. It’s mostly young people, but Starbucks has older people who like it also. Still, its future is bright. Luckin has The Sun card, a kid living in a castle surrounded by a wall. That means there is some distance between it and its customers. The Ace of Cups means that in general people are happy with it but not completely happy. They still have room for improvement.
Seven of Cups for overall industry. There’s going to be a big change in the coffee market but not in 2019. Luckin might still beat Starbucks but it’s not going to be this year.
What will happen to Found 158 this year?
Format: Seven cards to tell its past, present and future.
Ok, first let’s compare its past and present to reality, so you can see if it’s true. The first card is The Moon. That means their business is better at night. But the other cards show that there is a lot we don’t see. On the surface, it looks very profitable but there are a lot of costs and hidden dangers that we don’t see that are eating into profits. In the past, the owners have been damaged by “policies”, things that are related to business licenses and other behind-the-scenes matters. They’ve been negatively influenced by things beyond their control.
Right now, the customers are people who seek something new.
Starting this May, the problems will start to ease and businesses will make money again. It will be really busy, maybe even more busy than they can handle, according to the Queen of Wands, and things will verge on being chaotic. Around September, some business owners will get greedy and start to negotiate for lower rents, but the Eight of Cups shows they are just playing an emotional card, and they will ultimately fail in their negotiations (but will not leave Found 158). It will still be a good location for 2019.
When will Shake Shack offer delivery?
Format: I can’t tell this by tarot. I’ve got to use bazi (the Chinese astrology system).
(Daisy asks for the birthday and birth time of the store manager. I don’t know it. So she asks for mine instead, I guess because I am like 3% Shake Shack by body weight now. After consulting the bazi, she texts the following prediction the next day.)
Shake Shack will launch its delivery service in August if not as early as June. It has not started its delivery service now because the owner is too busy with something, not because he doesn’t want to. That something might be staffing. The owner needs to find people to help with the delivery services, like taking pictures for the online platforms. The earliest the delivery service will start is June. It will definitely happen before September.
(Shake Shake's manager denied this.)
Will any new restaurants win three Michelin stars?
Format: Three cards.
No one new will succeed at getting three stars this year. The judges are strict. The female judges are especially strict but the male judges are especially influential.
Will Boxing Cat put the damn nachos back on the menu already?
Format: Three cards.
Probably won’t. They are particularly busy, and they aren’t thinking about these details. Also, they are in expansion mode with a partner and not worried about this stuff right now. So, things will change and develop but not in the way you want. They might make some changes but not until the end of the year.
Will Le Baron close this year, amidst all the rumors?
Format: Three cards.
First, they have an issue about their funds, borrowing money from others. Second, there might be lawsuits or customer complaints. But then the Three of Wands shows us that even if they don’t close, their business is going down the drain. Eight of Swords means the owner can not change what is happening.
Who will come to China first, Jamie Oliver or Nando's?
Format: Comparison, two cards for Oliver, two for Nando’s and one for the restaurant industry in 2019.
Nando’s will come first. Jamie has some unfinished business with his current investors. Also, he’s not that willing to come to China. Nando’s has already put this on its agenda, but there may be unseen forces delaying it, so it won’t happen before September. And even then, it’s not going to do as good as it hoped. They both have external stress.
How many restaurants will be on our RIP List this year? Last year it was 170+.
Format: Three cards.
Tarot will give us the trend and can tell us a range but not an exact number.
Not too many. I think it will be around 300 restaurants. About 1 out of 8 restaurants listed on your site. (Ed note: SmartShanghai has about 4,150 restaurants listed, so these statements might be contradictory.) There will be a lot of bankruptcies and closures in the middle of year, but The World card tells us there will also be a ton of wanghong shops, popular with students and interns and the youth. Not that many will close. The popular new ones will have to do with drinks: bars, cafes, places with beverages.
Disagree with the future? Go see Daisy yourself. (Consultations in Chinese only.)
The Luna Tarot, 2/F, 96 Shaoxing Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu.