How a Fake Restaurant Quickly Climbed to the Top of TripAdvisor’s London List
If it’s on the internet, it has to be true, right? WRONG. Especially in the case of The Shed at Dulwich, London’s hottest spot to eat according to TripAdvisor. Oobah Butler, a London-based writer recently took to social media to show just how easy it is to manipulate people into believing what they read on the internet. Butler created a fake restaurant profile on TripAdvisor, naming it The Shed at Dulwich (which was quite literally, the cottage he called home). He found a loophole to not providing the supposed restaurant’s address and quickly avoided users who would question the restaurant’s whereabouts or existance. His restaurant quickly began to rise in rankings on London’s restaurant scene as he had friends write outstanding and unique reviews of the restaurant, each from different IP addresses to beat TripAdvisor’s fraud detection system. Butler even faked images of food and decor in the restaurant, making people believe the images were truly from the inside of a high-scale restaurant.
Butler’s idea for the restaurant came from an odd-end job that he once did, writing fake reviews for other restaurant owners on TripAdvisor. He would be compensated for writing these out-of-this-world reviews, and oftentimes was the catalyst for increasing a restaurant’s presence on the site. While many of the reviews you read are genuine, Butler knew there was an alternative “reality” on sites like these, and made it his mission to show people that the current climate of misinformation and “fake news” on the internet and social media is believed far too often. Thus, The Shed at Dulwich was created.
Butler’s cheap side phone, and the number which the profile was set up under, began ringing off the hooks. Londoners and travelers from around the world began calling, trying to get a reservation at the new hot spot in London. Again, Butler had to find a way out and simply told callers that the restaurant was, unfortunately, booked solid for over six weeks to come. Before he knew it, food vendors, prospective employee hopefuls, PR agencies, newspapers, and more began reaching out to Butler in order to get in on the restaurant’s rapidly growing “success.” The Shed at Dulwich topped London’s restaurant list on TripAdvisor for over two weeks in a row.
Once things got out of hand, Butler invited over a list of people who had expressed interest in his restaurant. He cleaned up his backyard, set up a basic layout and served frozen dinner meals to the guests. While many saw right through his act, some actually requested to rebook and come back again.
The moral of the story? The power of the internet and social media is undeniable. If this one UK-based journalist was able to make a non-existent restaurant famous practically overnight, imagine what true digital strategy could do for promoting a legitimate business. Social media and a strong digital presence are vital in today’s digitally-focused society. Ensure your business is up-to-speed on the latest trends and innovatively using the tools available to best market your brand to an online audience.