Foodies love to be ahead of the curve with the next big thing, but this one would have left lots of egg on various faces.
Overpriced, bespoke, free-range eggs of course.
Oobah Butler, a writer for VICE based in London, has shown that it’s possible to dupe an entire city into thinking a non-existent restaurant is the next dining Mecca, and it’s all a bit of a laugh.
Butler had experience with yanking chains, having previously been employed to write fake online reviews by a PR service, so let’s see how he managed to pull off this one.
He created The Shed at Dulwich, with the details via Fortune:
The Shed [was] literally, the backyard cottage he calls home. Butler set up an account for his “restaurant” using a cheap disposable phone, and simply didn’t provide an address, saying it was appointment only. That simultaneously deflected inquisitive debunkers, and created an air of exclusivity that was key to the eventual triumph of his fakery.
He also faked photos of The Shed’s food, somehow making shaving cream, bleach tablets, and his own feet into very convincing mockups of gourmet dishes. Then he recruited friends and allies to write glowing fake reviews, each of them unique and posted from different computers to help defeat TripAdvisor’s fraud detection systems.
Things quickly got, in Butler’s words, “a little out of hand.” From the very bottom of TripAdvisor’s charts, his fake restaurant steadily climbed the London rankings. He started getting emails and phone calls requesting nonexistent reservation spots, with interest only amping up when he told callers The Shed was “fully booked for the next six weeks.”
You can just imagine those London trendsetters, living it up in the likes of Shoreditch, talking about it non-stop whilst munching on grossly overpriced sarmies.
Then things really blew up:
Somehow, the momentum carried The Shed at Dulwich to the top of TripAdvisor’s charts, making Butler’s fake eatery the top-rated restaurant in London. According to Butler, The Shed held on to that ranking for two weeks.
Butler finally decided to take his stunt to its obvious conclusion by cleaning up his yard, inviting a handful of guests over, and serving them frozen dinners straight from the grocery store. Some of The Shed’s guests apparently saw through the ruse, but most, according to Butler, enthusiastically bought in to what seems to have been a genuinely unique experience, with some even immediately requesting to rebook.
Sheeple at their finest.
For the full account you can pop over to VICE – bon appétit.
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