Oobah Butler once had a job writing fake Tripadvisor restaurant reviews for £10/each, paid by restauranteurs; having learned how powerful these reviews were, he decided to turn his south London shed into the best-regarded restaurant in all of London.
He created a fake business for his shed, took soft-focus shots of "food" (really gaffs like sponges covered in paint with shaving cream garnish), then started gaming the Tripadvisor rankings. Soon, people started to call him asking him for reservations (he always told them he was fully booked).
This seeming exclusivity drove interest in "The Shed at Dulwich," sending him racing up the Tripadvisor league-table. He started to get resumes and free samples from companies eager to supply his highly regarded restaurant. PR agencies pitched him.
Once he reached number one, the reservations requests reached a fever pitch. Finally, he relented and opened his "restaurant" for one night, buying frozen TV dinners from the discount supermarket Iceland and serving them to excited diners. He led people to their tables wearing blindfolds and created a whole show around the service of these meals.
Some of them tried to come back for another dinner.
After seating them and disappearing to grab drinks, I hear a scream from the kitchen. Outside, a lady runs across the restaurant, squealing. Trevor – oh, good time to introduce Trevor, the man I hired the chickens from – is following her, clutching a chicken flapping its wings.
I snatch the chicken off Trevor and stuff it in the Wendy house. As things calm down, the woman's friends begin to laugh. "Why do you have chickens?" they ask. "It's pick your chicken! We cook the one you like the look of." Their expressions sour. "But I thought you were a vegetarian restaurant? I found you as you're the top-rated veggie restaurant in London."
My heart skips a beat – I hadn't thought of this. "Top in all of London, you mean!" I smile. We're fucked.
People seem to be enjoying the food, but I can't stop thinking 'flapping chicken'. We need to make good with the table of four.
I Made My Shed the Top Rated Restaurant On TripAdvisor [Oobah Butler/Vice]