Top Restaurant on TripAdvisor Was Just Some Guy's Shed

Vice writer takes fake restaurant to top of TripAdvisor's rankings in just 6 months
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 6, 2017 6:03 PM CST
Updated Dec 10, 2017 6:31 AM CST
Writer May Live in Shed, But at Least It's London's Best Eatery
The company logo for the travel website TripAdvisor hangs at the company's headquarters, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Needham, Mass.   (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

For a brief shining moment in November, the best restaurant in London, as rated by TripAdvisor, featured TV dinners, live chickens, and a DJ playing kitchen noises in lieu of an actual kitchen. Oobah Butler used to be paid by restaurants to leave good reviews on TripAdvisor without actually visiting the restaurants or eating their food. That got Butler to wondering: If the reviews were fake, could the restaurants be fake, too? "One day, sitting in the shed I live in, I had a revelation: within the current climate of misinformation, and society's willingness to believe absolute bullshit, maybe a fake restaurant is possible," Butler writes in Vice for a hilarious look at how he turned his shed into London's top-rated restaurant in just six months.

Butler's scheme for "The Shed at Dulwich" involved an overly general address for "appointment-only" dining, a website with pics of fancy food made from shaving cream and toilet bowl cleaner, "a concept silly enough to infuriate your dad," a questionable endorsement from an actual celebrity, and, of course, fake reviews courtesy of friends and acquaintances. Those reviews and the mystery surrounding The Shed were enough to beat out the more than 18,000 real London restaurants on TripAdvisor. "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," Butler marvels. But The Shed's success came with an unforeseen side effect: actual reservation requests, hundreds of them. Read the full story here to find out what happened when Butler opened The Shed for real and why he came away believing "literally anything is possible." (More Longform stories.)

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