The power of hype is real and Oobah Butler proved it when he created a fictitious restaurant and catapulted it to the top of TripAdvisor's rankings.
Over the past few years, London has become one of the most popular cities in the world for foodies and adventurers alike. Have you ever wondered what it takes to be the highest-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in London? As it turns out, not much. This was precisely the conclusion drawn by Vice journalist Oobah Butler, who conducted an experiment to test the power of hype.
Butler created a fictitious restaurant, named 'The Shed at Dulwich,' and then enticed his friends to post positive reviews for the eatery on TripAdvisor. Through his combination of good reviews, fabricated photos of dishes, and even a pretend waiting list, the fake restaurant quickly became the number-one-rated eatery in London.
This experiment truly underscores the notion that if something is hyped enough, everyone will want to be part of it - even if it's not that good (or in this case, doesn't even exist in the first place). Butler is renowned for his crazy experimental media stunts, such as his time in Paris when he posed as 'Georgio Peviani'—the designer of some jeans he found in a London market—in order to gain access to the Paris Fashion Week.
But back to The Shed. Butler had a plan to create a unique five-star restaurant experience. He knew he'd have to come up with something extraordinary and unexpected to stand out from the competition. With that, he decided to use his own garden shed as the venue, purchasing a burner phone to handle inquiries and then launching a website to make the restaurant look official.
In addition, he created a menu of dishes named after moods and took photos of taster menu items that looked like something from a Michelin-starred establishment (although in reality, they were just a combination of shaving foam, bleach tablets and honey!). As news of The Shed at Dulwich began to spread, inquiries and requests for bookings started to pour in. Butler had to give the people what they wanted and so he invited a select few to join him for a one-off evening at The Shed, serving up microwave lasagnas to complete the experience.
Butler's experiment of getting The Shed at Dulwich to the top spot on TripAdvisor was nothing short of remarkable, and he revealed that his past experience of writing fake reviews for restaurant owners is what inspired him to conduct the experiment. For just £10, he would write a glowing critique of the establishment, despite never having visited it.
As he grew more and more interested in tracking these ratings, he soon realized that he had the power to completely turn around a business with his words. This discovery showed him that TripAdvisor was an illusion, as none of the reviews were actually from people who had experienced the restaurants firsthand. This ultimately led to his idea of creating his own fake food business venture, and it's easy to see why his story is so impressive.