Monday 20 August 2018

Fake reviews make shed top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor

The food on offer at The Shed along with other items, including some shaving foam
The food on offer at The Shed along with other items, including some shaving foam

Helena Horton

A journalist tricked TripAdvisor into making his shed the top-rated restaurant in London after he and his friends submitted fake reviews.

Oobah Butler, a writer for 'Vice', transformed his garden shed into a fake restaurant, by making a website and enlisting a photographer to take photographs of the "food" - close-ups of shaving foam, bleach and at one point, the author's foot - that 'The Shed' apparently served.

The website boasts: "An appointment-only restaurant located in south London, The Shed has been operating privately for years. In 2017, it decided to open its doors. As of November that year, it was TripAdvisor's top-rated restaurant in London."

He said he knew how to game the respected ratings website because he once made a living by writing fake restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor for £10 (€11.40) a post, in order to boost the businesses up the rankings.

Mr Butler convinced TripAdvisor - and hundreds of potential customers - that his shed in Dulwich, south London, was a real restaurant by buying a cheap mobile phone, registering that number as the restaurant's and refusing to give an address, because the "restaurant" was appointment-only.

Gourmet

Over the next few months, the fake gourmet spot managed to climb the rankings, thanks to Mr Butler and his friends who kept leaving positive reviews.

The elusiveness of The Shed in Dulwich sparked interest among potential customers, too, who were keen to try a spot off the beaten track.

The menu also caused interest - with each dish being based on a mood such as lust, comfort or contemplation.

One example dish, 'Empathetic', is "Vegan clams in a clear broth with parsnips, carrots, celery, and potatoes. Served with rye crisps."

'Guardian' restaurant critic Jay Rayner was taken in by the ruse, tweeting: "At last: a restaurant that recognises food is all about mood. Of all the shed-based eating experiences out there this one sounds like the best. Or at least second best. (I have my own shed, hence). Personally I'm keen to try 'contemplation'."

After he managed to make his restaurant number one, the journalist held an opening party, at which he served guests microwave meals from a discount supermarket, dressed-up to look like they could be haute cuisine.

After the guests seemed to enjoy themselves, with one pair asking if they could come again.

Irish Independent

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