Have you ever been to south London? If so, you’ve probably heard of Morley’s Chicken. And if you’ve ever lived in south London, it’ll be more than that – you’ve probably got a real soft spot for Morley’s.
It’s a fried chicken franchise characterised by its red store fronts, curly white text, and unmistakably Morley’s taste. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside – its signature scent marks every journey home late on a Friday night.
And if you speak to almost anyone who grew up south of the river, they’ll have something affectionate to say about this understated fast food chain. It’s part of the local culture.
But how did a family-run chicken shop achieve cult status?
The first Morley’s shop was opened in 1985 in Sydenham, south-east London, by Kannalingam Indran Selvendran – a Columbian who moved to London from Sri Lanka. When he died in 2002, his son Shan Selvendran took over the business.
Over the years, more Morley’s shops opened – and today there are more than 100, with the highest density still in south London.
Loyal famous customers include London-born rapper and songwriter Stormzy, and hip hop artists Krept and Konan. Like any other south Londoner, these celebrities grew up with Morley’s; and they used the fame they acquired later on to promote this local institution.
In 2017, Stormzy filmed the music video for his single Big For Your Boots in a Morley’s shop in Thornton Heath, not far from that original Sydenham store. (If you want to see inside a Morley’s, you can watch that video here – content warning for explicit language, though). On YouTube alone that video has topped 2.2 million views – along with extensive plays across TV channels and other digital media.
In 2019, Krept also released a video set at Morley’s – and called it Morley’s Freestyle.
Morley’s also worked closely with writer and performer Corey Bovell to develop his one-man theatre show, Chicken Burger N Chips, about coming of age in south London. The show premiered at a local theatre, but was later commissioned by the BBC to be turned into a radio play and broadcast nationally.
The likes of Stormzy have definitely brought Morley’s into the public eye. But the reality is that Morley’s was a big deal in south London before the music videos and theatre shows – and it was featured by those artists because of its unique position in their lives and hearts.
We asked a south Londoner in our office what she feels about Morley’s, and she said,
“I remember one time when my neighbour lost his home and became homeless, and the Morley’s down the road let him sleep in the shop for a few weeks. On Thursday nights I’d go in there with my mum and we’d buy chicken for ourselves and buy extra for him as well, until he got back on his feet.”
In a 2023 interview with the BBC, Shan said that the brand’s success was down to consistency, quality, and reliability. It’s a local cult favourite because it provides “really delicious food at really good prices. You will see every walk of life in our shop. We’ll always be a community brand – no matter how big we get.”
And that’s a powerful reminder of how brand loyalty grows. Morley’s is loved because it is embedded in the community, it’s a part of people’s lives, and it provides them with a predictable product in an environment where they feel at home.
Truthfully? We could all learn a lot from Morley’s.
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