a plate of dessert on a wood table

Five stars for originality…

The critics were lined up, the TripAdvisor reviews were off the charts – the guest feedback was truly phenomenal and the restaurant secured the coveted #1 restaurant rating in London. That’s London, the booming metropolis, where the world’s top chefs clamor and compete to stay in the top 20. But there was just one catch – there was no restaurant. Just a shed.

a plate of dessert on a wood tableTake everything you think we’re about to tell you, and go further. Without a menu, without a single customer served and without a chef – The Shed At Dulwich, became the highest rated restaurant in London. How could this happen? Enter the shady, cloak and dagger world of online reviews – and Oobah Butler – a new hero of travelers everywhere.

a building with rocking chairs on the porchOobah Butler, the London based writer, former fake review writer (for real restaurants) and all around life hacker who really does live in a shed in Dulwich, wondered if it was truly possible to build a successful, fake restaurant. He succeeded, with flying colors. Using his address to craft an utterly desirable high end restaurant name, a knowledge of the current restaurant scene, and what customers look for, he took to the net. A series of over 100 raving, fake reviews – and he made it to the top. Well, not actually – but kind of. Just listen to the reservation requests…

What the hell, TripAdvisor? Very little has been done to filter great reviews, from bad reviews from FAKE reviews. Anyone can leave a TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google review for anything – even if they’ve never set foot in the country, let alone the restaurant, hotel or activity. Oobah did this for money for an extended period of time, so he had immense knowledge of just how treacherous and blatantly false online rankings can be. This murky area has created a black market of bots, hackers and “influencers” who peddle services to make any travel product, including restaurants, winners. Oobah outclassed them all.

a plate of food on a tableThe best part? He took beautiful soft focus photos of bleach blocks, shaving cream, pepper and garnishes to make attractive looking “food” photography to entice customers. And in the end, he even decided to actually serve some food. And by food, we mean ready meals, jazzed up with flower petals and other nonsense.

a person's foot with a boiled egg on a plateAfter securing the #1 spot on TripAdvisor, miffing top chefs, restaurant critics and Michelin inspectors the work was done. Can you even imagine fielding calls from newspapers and critics hoping to get a review, only to be told the restaurant is booked solid – no exceptions? Alas, with point proven, Oobah Butler exposed his con. The location? His apartment. The menu? Rotates daily, private. The feedback? Phenomenal of course – because it was written by Oobah and friends. As you can imagine, the place was “booked solid” for months to come, which kept anyone from finding out in the interim. This story is best described entirely unlike Oobahs debut dishes: juicy, well seasoned and exceptionally baked. The internet is a strange place.

Do you trust TripAdvisor reviews?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. It happens all the time. In Spanish, there were so many articles about a restaurant in Tokyo’s suburbs named Edible Brother. Supposedly they served human meat. And everybody was quoting the same fake article.

  2. I am a frequent traveler with more than 100,000 miles per year.
    I make my purchases and reservations through the oficial web sites only .

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