Youd be hard-pressed to find a Macon business thats banking on Mercer football as heavily as Carl Fambro, owner of Francars Buffalo Wings.
As football returns to Mercers campus Saturday after a 72-year hiatus, Fambro and other local restaurateurs are hoping the kickoff kicks business to another level.
The Middle Georgia Regional Commission has estimated that Saturdays game and Nov. 23 homecoming, which are both sold out, could net more than $2.5 million combined for the local economy.
If the remaining six home games have just a 50 percent occupancy, that could pump another $5.4 million into the local economy.
Some downtown area restaurants are taking a wait-and-see approach to determine how theyll respond to the potential rush during the Bears eight home games this fall.
As people flood into downtown and the College Hill Corridor by the thousands, Fambro is going all out to capture all the business he can.
He has two concession trailers, and one will be placed at the Hilton Garden Inn near the stadium, which is booked solid for Saturdays game. Hotel staff are encouraging guests to tailgate in the parking lot, and Fambro is currently the only food provider there.
His other trailer will be set up in the undoubtedly packed stadium parking lot.
Fambro is also setting up a mobile kitchen and drink station outside his Mercer Village restaurant on Montpelier Avenue. He typically has seating for 20 outside.
On game days, hell provide seating for 100 and some pop-up tents.
Hes also buying a golf cart to take food from the restaurant to the trailers at the stadium and hotel.
We need to make some money with this football, Fambro said as he sat in his restaurant. Weve been waiting for this for four years. I want to make sure were ready for it.
If it works, were golden. If it doesnt, Ill be paying money back for the rest of my life, he said, laughing.
Jake Fincher, co-owner of Finchers Bar-B-Q, wants in on the action. He said his Houston Avenue restaurant is close enough to the stadium that the restaurant is devising a plan to deliver food to the bumpers of tailgaters.
Were hoping to deliver instead of them having to do the cooking, Fincher said. Ive never done this before, but I think we can do it.
Chad Evans and Wes Griffith, owners of the Rookery and Dovetail restaurants on Cherry Street, will be introducing a new food truck to roam between downtown and the College Hill Corridor on game days.
We just bought it today, Evans said Thursday. The truck will not be in service Saturday, but you will see it this season, he said.
Evans said the Rookery and Dovetail already do solid business on Saturday, and the food truck is another way to capture new business.
Don Bivings, owner of Market City Cafe, 502 Cherry St., said Saturdays are his busiest day of the week.
He said hes excited about the return of football to Mercer, but he has some concerns.
How will it affect us? Im curious to see how it works, he said.
With much of the talk downtown centered on tailgating, theres not much for Bivings to get excited about, he said.
When you tailgate, you bring your own food, your own drinks and go to the game, said Bivings, adding that would do nothing to help his business. We hope fans will eat at restaurants.
Just bringing in people does not necessarily mean youre going to have business, he said.
To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.