Sides: Why 'thousands' queued round the block for fried chicken in London

As fans of The Sidemen queued for 'up to 1km' on a wet Sunday morning for the group's new fried chicken restaurant, Yahoo UK explains the 'Sides' phenomenon and asks, 'Is it worth the hype?'

People queued for hours to grab some fried chicken at the grand opening of Sides in Dalston, London. (Samsworld76/TikTok)
People queued for hours to grab some fried chicken at the grand opening of Sides in Dalston, London. (Samsworld76/TikTok)

You may have seen videos on your social feeds last weekend of a huge line of hungry punters queuing in east London for fried chicken and sauce.

The popularity of London's fast food scene is well known, but this particular queue was part of a unique phenomenon.

The hype is all about a new chicken restaurant called Sides - the outlet created by Youtubers The Sidemen, which attracted thousands to its opening in Dalston on Sunday morning, including some who'd queued since Friday night.

The Sidemen launched their fried chicken brand at the end of 2021, with the first locations in the United Arab Emirates and at Wembley’s Boxpark. But Sunday's opening marked the first time Sides has had a presence on the high street.

So what's going on and is the hype worth it?

Who are the Sidemen?

There's no doubt the Sidemen are big.

They're made up of seven friends - KSI (Olajide Olatunji), 31, Tobjizzle (Tobi Brown), 31, Miniminster (Simon Minter), 31, Zerkaa (Josh Bradley), 31, Behzinga (Ethan Payne), 28, Vikkstar123 (Vikram Barn), 28 and Wroetoshaw (Harry Lewis), 26 - who started an online channel together 10 years ago.

Each of them already had a YouTube presence and, collectively, their accounts have more than 130 million subscribers.

Onlookers said they thought the queue for The Sidemen chicken restaurant in Dalston was up to 1km long. (TikTok/@Marvo94)
Onlookers said they thought the queue for The Sidemen chicken restaurant in Dalston was up to 1km long. (TikTok/@Marvo94)
Harry Lewis, Simon Minter, Tobi Brown, Olajide Olatunji, Vikram Barn, Josh Bradley, Simon Minter and Ethan Payne
The Sidemen – Harry Lewis, Simon Minter, Tobi Brown, Olajide Olatunji, Vikram Barn, Josh Bradley, Simon Minter and Ethan Payne – standing behind the bar at Sides in Dalston. (Instagram/Sides)

The group own a clothing line and earlier this year opened the brand's first physical store at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

A charity football match organised by the group at the London Stadium in the summer raised £2.4m for charity.

The game attracted 60,000 fans in the stands, a peak online audience of 2.7 million viewers and fellow YouTuber celebrities like Chunkz and Mark Goldbridge taking part.

Why the queues?

Some fans in Dalston last weekend waited for 38 hours - partly for the food; partly because of the prospect of a brief meet-and-greet with their idols; and partly KSI's promise of five random punters winning £10,000.

An opening at the Merry Hill shopping centre in the West Midlands later the same day, meanwhile, didn't go quite as well, with Dudley Council telling the Sidemen they couldn't attend their own opening due to safety reasons, amid concerns 10,000 people were likely to attend.

A TikTok from the Dalston location also indicated a police presence, with the comment that "even the police can't resist the Sides".

The exterior of Sides, a chicken shop by the Sidemen
(Credit: Sides)

What about KSI?

One of the most notable names from the Sidemen is KSI, who also created the popular drinks brand Prime with fellow Youtuber Logan Paul.

If you've got kids, you'll know about Prime, which was launched in 2022 and sold out in stores across the UK within minutes, often based entirely on word-of-mouth promotion by young devotees of the brand.

At one point, schools started to ban the drink as the hype became too distracting.

At its peak, single bottles would sell for several times more than the expected retail price of £2, with one off-licence even selling Prime for £19.99.

In July, KSI and Paul revealed the company had made $250m in retail sales in its first year.

KSI poses for photographers as he opens the PRIME pop-up store on Piccadilly Circus in London Friday, Nov. 10, 2023. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)
KSI opens the PRIME pop-up store on Piccadilly Circus in London. (Invision/AP)

This isn't their only group business venture; they also sell their own line of vodka, clothing and other merchandise.

As for Sides itself, the group's CEO Robin Mehta says it is "putting food quality right at the heart of the offering", adding: "People will come in for the hype, but they'll come back for the food."

Is the food worth the hype?

It's too early to say. But while fried chicken is a guaranteed winner for many, not everyone's happy.

The menu for Sides doesn't look too costly, but it may be difficult for their younger fanbase to afford it. A standalone chicken burger will set you back £7.99, and if you want to upgrade it to a meal, that will cost an extra £4. One of their selling points is the fan favourite 'Sides special sauce'.

One mum who took her sons and godson with her to the opening in east London found herself having to queue - unsuccessfully - for hours.

Jade Taplin, 34, from Hackney, said she arrived at 10am and had to line up two streets away from the restaurant. Her youngest, aged seven, is only a fan of KSI because of the Prime drinks.

GREENHITHE, ENGLAND - JULY 15: A general view as YouTube collective 'Sidemen' open their first retail store at Bluewater Shopping Centre on July 15, 2023 in Greenhithe, England. Sideman are a group of seven friends, including rapper and boxer KSI who have millions of subscribers collectively. (Photo by Joe Maher/Getty Images)
The Sidemen store at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. (Getty Images)

Taplin told Yahoo News: "A lady behind me had a child as young as two held in her arms the whole time."

She said the queue began to get 'hostile' as time went on, as there was little to no movement, and she said security wouldn't tell people if the Sidemen were still there.

Eventually, at 3pm, Taplin heard an announcement from security that the Sidemen had left. A PR for Sides told Yahoo News the social media accounts for the Sidemen indicated the meet and greets would be for a limited time.

The experience left her 'upset and deflated', so she ended up going home after her 4-hour wait.

She won't be going back for the food: "I have no interest now in wanting to take my children to visit a shop.

"They'll accept my money but couldn’t respect time and dedication from three kids."

Cain Aiden, 35, a content creator from London, joined the queue at 9am and, like Taplin, ended up leaving after a four hour wait. He went back two days later to finally try the food and film his review. Aiden told Yahoo news: “As for the hype, I didn’t want to like it.”

Aiden really enjoyed his meal and is trying to convince his friends to go to Sides with him. Aiden said: “I got the chicken burger with Louisiana sauce and wings with garlic Mayo.“So so good,” he added.The only downside for him was the cost of his meal which came to £20.

As for the continuing growth of the Sidemen and their fried chicken empire? You can expect more queues this Saturday as people will be lining up for the opening of a third location in Manchester's Arndale shopping centre.