Openings

Eat this: Thunderbird Fried Chicken

This ‘better chicken’ street food concept has launched its first permanent site.

1 March 2019
americanmeatmenupoultryrestaurantsstreet food
  • The Gist: Fried chicken, obviously, in the form of wings, buns and pieces
  • The Chef: Matt Harris
  • Location: Unit 74, Brixton Village, Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PS
  • Food in 5 words: Make fried chicken great again
  • See more: www.thunderbirdckn.co.uk

How did we get here?

Unexpectedly, it all started with a failed racing career. In 2008, founder Matt Harris chased his dreams all the way to the Deep South to take part in the iconic NASCAR events, but with the recession hitting that year, his sponsorship opportunities stalled.

Harris then found himself back in the UK with a degree, a “crap job” and a flatmate who found operating a toaster challenging. Inspired by the taste of the South and looking to fill the thrill gap he had left behind, he swapped racing for recipes and his fried chicken concept was hatched.

He then took to the road with a scientific approach to fried chicken and a food truck, the BBQ Lab, which gained the attention of street food operators. Thunderbird Fried Chicken followed in 2017, making Dinerama and Giant Robot in London its temporary homes. Three months after putting wings on the menu, it won the London WingFest competition for the best wings in London.

Now, Thunderbird Fried Chicken’s first permanent site has opened in Brixton, with another five spaces already in the pipeline. Split over two floors, it offers takeaway as well as seating for 42 diners. The stripped-back, electric blue interiors, framed by gold thunderbolts, are an ode to Harris’ racing days.

“I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has tasted my chicken and taken a chance on me,” Harris said. “To open my first permanent site in one of London’s most exiting food destinations is an amazing opportunity and follows an incredible 10-year journey.”

What’s different about it?

Harris saw a gap in the market for premium chicken and is batting away the bad image of fried fowl with Thunderbird.

The idea incubated during his time in the US. Over there, fried chicken is more prolific than burgers – of the 100 biggest chains in the US in 2017, three of the five fastest growing were chicken concepts.

In particular, fried chicken is established as one of the most marketable types of fast food, with Chick-fil-A leading the flock in terms of sales.

Thunderbird’s version includes some unexpected flavour combinations. The award-winning Chipuffalo, for example, consists of buffalo wings flavoured with chipotle, coriander and pickled celery. Served with blue cheese dip, the present an interesting umami flavour combination.

Thunderbun, the concept’s classic meal, features a revamped secret recipe of “awesome” sauce, iceberg lettuce and pickles, accompanied by Buttermilk Caraway Slaw. All chicken can be purchased as part of a box or bucket deal too.

It might sounds like a poultry-only proposal, but plant-based eaters are catered for with a selection of veggie buns, incorporating all-round cheese favourite halloumi instead of chicken.

You’ve got to try…

Habanero Wings, slathered in roasted red pepper cream, habanero, tamarind and coriander.

Sparkie also likes…

The Meltdown, a fried chicken bun with molten jalapeno, miso cheese, charred pepper aioli, lettuce and pickles.

Go if…

You want a feed of premium fried chicken.

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