Thursday, February 8, 2018

Fake Restaurant Becomes Hottest Ticket in London -- Thru Positive Online Reviews

Last night's pork chops, prepared by Chef Micah
At one time or another most of us have checked websites like Yelp or TripAdvisor to obtain guidance on places to stay or places to eat when traveling. In some ways it's like book reviews on Goodreads or Amazon in which you sometimes need to sift a little to get a real feel for a place. On the other hand, this is a story that totally flips the game completely, like gambling against someone with marked cards, or x-ray vision.

According to a David Z. Morris article at Fortune a writer named Oobah Butler took the liberties of creating a fake restaurant by writing reviews about it and posting on He called it The Shed at Dulcich. No such place existed, or at least not as a restaurant. What triggered him to create this fake restaurant was his previous experience writing fake online reviews for restaurants he never ate at and post them on review site like TripAdvisor.

Butler named his restaurant The Shed because that is where he lived, a shed in Dulcich. He jumped through all the hoops, fairly minimal actually, to be listed at TripAdvisor as a real place -- a process which he explains here -- and then let the games begin.

One last item of importance. To be a hotspot a restaurant needs a concept and a website. The website would, naturally spell out their exotic menu, with photos showing deliciousness in the extreme. Butler's concept was food dishes based on your moods.

Once listed, the real work begins. Butler wasn't aiming to be a spoof restaurant. He was aiming to become the #1 restaurant in London. How he achieved this is all spelled out on his Vice post.

According to the Fortune story:
This is from Duluth Grill. Yumm. It's real.
Things quickly got, in Butler’s words, “a little out of hand.” From the very bottom of TripAdvisor’s charts, his fake restaurant steadily climbed the London rankings. He started getting emails and phone calls requesting nonexistent reservation spots, with interest only amping up when he told callers The Shed was “fully booked for the next six weeks.”

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The story of The Shed reminded me of another fraudulent event that I read about when I was much younger. Purportedly, one of the Harvard fraternities, of which I do not recall this detail, enrolled a pig in classes for four years, taking tests on behalf of the pig. On graduation day the pig's name was read aloud and a student brought him up on the podium to receive the diploma.

I don't know what discipline was enacted here, but the event may have been the catalyst for David Mamet's children's book This Little Piggy Went To Harvard.

Apparently online isn't the only place where fake activities occur.

Want to learn more about social media? If you're a small business in the Twin Ports, join the Social Media Breakfast for their monthly meetings in various locations around Duluth-Superior. Details here on Facebook.

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