Oobah Butler rorted the TripAdvisor ratings system by turning his shed into London’s top-ranking restaurant.

Butler previously made a living out of writing fake reviews on the website for restaurants that would pay him to boost their ratings before he decided to combine fake reviews with “mystique and nonsense” to turn his shed into a non-existent restaurant.

Butler purchased a dedicated mobile phone for The Shed at Dulwich, built a website and took a few photos of dishes largely consisting of inedible items such as a sponge and shaving foam.

After submitting the restaurant for consideration to be listed on TripAdvisor, The Shed was approved and Butler asked friends and acquaintances to write positive reviews to help the ranking of the venue.

“The first couple of weeks [were] easy: we crack the top 10,000 in no time, but I don’t expect much in the way of inquiries quite yet,” Butler writes on Vice.

“Then, one morning, something extraordinary happens: The Shed’s burner phone goes off.”

Butler was soon dodging calls, texts and emails from potential diners requesting tables at the non-existent restaurant. He even received inquiries from staff wanting to work at The Shed and PR agencies willing to represent the restaurant.

After six months of listing The Shed at Dulwich, the venue was ranked as London’s top-rated restaurant.

“A restaurant that doesn’t exist is currently the highest ranked in one of the world’s biggest cities, on perhaps the internet’s most trusted reviews site,” says Butler.

After hundreds of calls, Butler decided to open The Shed at Dulwich, choosing to fill half the tables with actors who would “talk loudly about how delicious everything is” and the rest with unsuspecting visitors who believed they were dining at London’s most prestigious venue.

Butler’s friend and chef Joe prepared a menu for the evening that cost just 31 pounds, but chose not to charge diners as a video crew was present to document the restaurant for a TV show.

“We’re ready for our first two guests,” says Butler.

“Joel and Maria [are] all the way from sunny California, vacationing in Europe for the first time. I ask them to put on blindfolds and they look terrified, but after the two actresses who’ve arrived at the same time agree, they nod.

“I rush into the kitchen and grab two mains off Joe. I place the pair’s dishes down, move away and, observing from a distance, watch them stare at their mac n cheese. Maria takes out her phone for a photo, looks at the meal through her camera, pauses, then puts her phone away without taking a picture.

“The evening crawls by. After 40 largely quiet minutes, the couple leaves. Joel looks furious.”

After all the venue’s real diners all leave, the restaurant’s ranking began to drop, but managed to stay in the number one position for two weeks.

The restaurant’s page on TripAdvisor has since been deleted.

“I invited people into a hastily-assembled collection of chairs outside my shed, and they left thinking it really could be the best restaurant in London, just on the basis of a TripAdvisor rating,” says Butler.

Image credit: Vice

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *