Southern Fried Chicken outlet comes home to roost in Norwich
Archant Norfolk Copyright
A fast food chain has come home to roost by launching a fried chicken takeaway in the county where its founder first fell in love with poultry.
Norwich’s first Southern Fried Chicken (SFC) store was opened this weekend in The Mall Kitchen Food Court.
The company was founded in 1983 by Arthur Withers, who was evacuated during the second world war to a Norfolk chicken farm, where he learned to care for the birds which would ultimately bring him business success.
The franchise grew to more than 250 outlets, which are now undergoing a major brand revamp following a recent appearance on Channel 4’s Undercover Boss programme by the current chief executive – Arthur’s son Andrew Withers.
Andrew Withers said: “It is very special for us to have a SFC presence in Norwich, as Norfolk is where the family business dream began. Moving from wartime London, my father enjoyed years of a much quieter life on a farm here caring for, and raising, chickens before moving to the US and coming up with the SFC idea.
“We are bringing it back to where the idea originated – and Norfolk is famous for its chickens.”
Mr Withers’ father was born in 1935 in the East End of London, and lived close to the Woolwich Arsenal armaments factory, which became a regular target for German bombers. His family sent him to Norfolk as a four-year-old to escape the routine bombardments.
Mr Withers’ TV appearance prompted the phone call which ensured the Norwich store was among the first eight to carry the new SFC branding.
“The franchise manager Joe La Bella saw the TV show and wanted to bring the store to Norwich,” he said. “I said it was a coincidence that my dad was brought up here so, great, let’s do it together.”
Joe La Bella runs the store alongside his children Romina, Lorenzo and Luca, who have invested moire than £200,000 in the business. The family already owns the Subway and Papa John’s food franchises in the city.
Mr La Bella said he hoped to fill a gap in the market for a quick-service restaurant which offered locally-reared poultry.
“I was looking into the chicken business when I saw the programme on the television,” he said. “We have been in business in Norwich for 20 years and my kids have grown up here, so I love the connection with Arthur.”