The East London street with 14 chicken shops in the space of a mile has seen people drive across the capital to visit it.
Mile End Road in Tower Hamlets has a high concentration of hugely popular fast food outlets which see customers travel from all over London to buy meals for as little as £2.
Workers queue out of the doors at around 5pm every day along the street dubbed “The Chicken Shop Mile”.
Mohammed Ahmend, owner of The Maq takeaway on Mile End Road says that people travel from all over the capital to eat from one of the street’s many outlets.
Mohammed opened his business in early 2020 just a week before the Covid-19 pandemic, says that while business has been slowed by coronavirus, customers are still keen to make the journey.
(Image: Alastair Lockhart)
He says: “People come here from Ilford, Romford, West London – people get in their cars and drive half an hour to get here to buy chicken.
“We’re one of the only places around here open until 2am. Our business varies – it’s up and down all day – but we still have customers at 2am.
“This is the best area for chicken in London, people come from all over.”
He also adds that the consistent popularity of the street has made buildings prime real estate for chicken shop honours.
He says: “This is a premium area. Maybe 10 years ago it was different but in the last 10 years rent prices have gone up.”
Rus Kutty, who owns Dixie Chicken on Mile End Road, said that business has been slowed by the pandemic but that he was not worried about a drop in customers.
He says “We’ve been here for 15 years. It’s not like it was before Covid, and we get more competition from big chains.
(Image: Alastair Lockhart)
“But my shop is the only one in this area [of the road] so people still come.”
However, local council stats point to the masses of easily available cheap fast food as a driving factor in the high levels of obesity and child obesity in the borough.
Over a quarter of children aged 10-11 in the borough are obese, as are almost one in seven four and five year olds – Tower Hamlets Council say.
The council attributes this poor health to a lack of physical activity and poor diet – highlighting the link between childhood obesity and health issues in later life including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer.
The council state that the high volume of fast food businesses in the borough is a contributor to the trend of child obesity, and add that it is seeking to tackle the issue through programmes which encourage young people to take more exercise and increase the availability of fruit and vegetables in schools.
This may prove difficult, however, in areas such as Mile End Road where chicken shops have the reputation of being among the best in London and remain hugely popular.
What the council say:
Councillor Asma Begum, deputy mayor and lead member for children said: “Reducing obesity in Tower Hamlets is a key public health priority. Childhood obesity is caused by a number of issues linked to poor diet and low levels of physical activity, and many of these issues have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are working with partners to improve the flow of affordable, healthy food, and increase opportunities to run and play. We work with schools, nurseries and children’s centres to provide healthier food, and have more Healthy Schools Awards from the GLA, across all categories, than any other London borough.
“We also work closely with local food businesses to reduce levels of fat, sugar and salt and increase the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables through the Food for Health award scheme. We are working with partners to address food poverty – a key driver of poor diets – including providing free primary school meals and through innovative voucher schemes. Our Local Plan includes a restriction on any new fast-food takeaways close to schools or in council-run leisure centres.
“We are continually working with partners to ensure professionals in schools, the health system and beyond are able to support school-age children to be a healthy weight.”