You’ve always heard the saying ‘Don’t trust everything on the internet’, which applies to some twisted facts but what about people believing the very existence of a place that doesn’t exist? That’s exactly what happened with London’s No. 1 rated restaurant, The Shed at Dulwich and Twitter can’t handle it.
Yes, there was nothing in the above sentence that was made up, other than the restaurant itself! The Shed at Dulwich became London’s top rated restaurant that had guests dying to reserve a table was merely a carefully constructed figment of imagination that was born out of one man’s distaste for the industry that he once was a part of.
Meet, Oobah Butler, who whipped up The Shed at Dulwich to prove a point against online aggregators, most specifically, TripAdvisor as he mentions in his interview.
From a career that had him write fake interviews for restaurants for peanuts on TripAdvisor itself, Oobah soon grew disenchanted with the entire premise which he called ‘a false reality that everyone took completely seriously.’
“Over the years I just thought that the only bit of TripAdvisor that is unfakeable, is a restaurant itself.” Oobah says in a video created by VICE. “And one day I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it is actually fakeable!”
Manipulating the millennial audience’s penchant for ‘Instagrammable and out-of-the-box experiences, Oobah positioned The Shed at Dulwich as a restaurant where you eat outside and that is was a ‘homely’ place.
“I was amazed by how easy it was to misuse a platform millions of people rely on, vouching for how genuine, reliable and informative it is.” says Zafar Rais, Founder and CEO, Mindshift Interactive.
The next out-of-the-box element Oobah added was putting a ridiculous yet somehow plausible twist on the Menus. The twist was, that The Shed does not serve meals, instead it serves ‘moods’ such as Comfort, Love, Contemplation, Lust and more! People actually ‘theoretically’ ate that stuff up.
To add to the intrigue and appeal of the place, Oobah Butler made out The Shed at Dulwich to be an appointment only place, which also helped him avoid guests actually showing up for a meal.
All these factors played a huge role for the restaurant moving from it’s debut position at No. 18,190 rated restaurant in London to breaking into the top 10,000 in London!
Using the fake reviews to craft public perception of the restaurant, Oobah did really well to not go overboard and maintained a consistency with the fake reviews, declining reservations all along.
Fast forward to The Shed firmly planting it’s feet as the No. 1456 rated restaurant in London on TripAdvisor when he was approached by a PR agency that he desribes as “a young, results hungry PR agency who want to represent The Shed.”
Oobah took up the offer from the PR agency, setting up a Skype meeting with them, posing as Stephen Muller, the guy who was representing the restaurant.
It took five months for Oobah Butler to bring The Shed to the No. 121 rating on TripAdvisor, moving to No. 91 soon, with people still scrambling for reservations at a restaurant which never existed.
Sharing his thoughts on how one person managed to create a major sift in the industry, Rais adds, “I’m in love with the idea that someone thought of this and was bold enough to create a much needed mind shift. We’re tricked ever-so-often by what we read or see online that we never pause to question it. Our lives are dominated by the leaders of each platform that we trust them without a doubt. The human tendency towards blind faith is once again being questions, and its a great feeling. ”
Breaking into the Top 10 restaurants in London on TripAdvisor, as The Shed had not only begun to deny reservations for guests at their nonexistent restaurant, but had begun to receive job applications!
NUMBER ONE! IT HAPPENED.
Six months and a lot of effort was all it took for Oobah Butler to get his restaurant to the No. 1 spot but that still is a lot less effort than running an actual restaurant and getting it to number one!
Find out what happened when Oobah Butler couldn’t contain this fabrication anymore, and decided to open the doors of The Shed for a few select guests. Watch what happened next.
The Shed at Dulwich was the number one rated restaurant in London, with foodies, celebrities and bloggers trying to get a table. The main obstacle for them, however, was that it didn't exist. Here's the journey into a false reality that captured the world's attention.
Posted by VICE Video on Monday, 22 January 2018
“The story serves the purpose of creating an awakening amongst humans and their blind faith, but also online aggregators to realise the power their platform creates and the responsibilities that come with it. While the reactive measure may be towards an additional disclaimer, it sure raises questions about the existing verification processes, and how they can make it more stringent, without intimidating sincere business operators.” Rais opines.
Calling it an episode right out of Black Mirror to sheer shock, Twitter still can’t comprehend what exactly hit them.
the shed at dulwich docu looked like a potential black mirror episode
— ɐsoɹ (@rslbn) January 24, 2018
The Shed at Dulwich: very interesting and original experiment; somehow tells us not to take all online reviews and rankings seriously. https://t.co/S3sfWiyX9u
— Drei (@_drei) January 22, 2018
The Shed at Dulwich. I am floored.
— amre (@catharstrophic) January 24, 2018
Actual love the guy who created that Shed at Dulwich and was rated number one restaurant in London people are so thick and believe everything they read online
— Rachel (@505_rach) January 24, 2018
TripAdvisor were rather dismissive about the misuse of their platform to create a sensation about a restaurant that never existed as reported by VICE; the company said, “although the experiment was eye catching, it didn’t really say much about fake reviews in the real world as most fraudsters are only interested in trying to manipulate the rankings of real businesses.”
What are your thoughts about VICE and Oobah Butler’s experiment? Let us know at [email protected]