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Catering and tailgating
Football season fuels surge in food preparation business
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Tony Sammons, owner of Vandy's Barbecue in Statesboro, says the catering his restaurant does during football season is vital to the success of his business. - photo by JAMES HEALY/staff
      Local restaurant owners are thrilled that football season is underway. Catering and take out orders are surging as fans prepare to watch their favorite teams take the field.
       "We love football season around here," said Tony Sammons, owner of Vandy's Barbeque in Statesboro. "People love to tailgate with barbeque, Brunswick stew, and south Georgia sweet tea, and we love making it for them."
       Sammons said the weekend begins with orders for high school tailgating and continues on through Saturday now that Georgia Southern football is underway.
       "We have a tremendous number of pickup orders that are called in for game days, in addition to catering," he said. "We have both small and large catering jobs, but I would say an average would be one that serves around 150 people or so. That's a lot of barbeque and stew."
       Sammons isn't the only restaurant owner with game day fever. Olivia O'Mahoney, co-owner of Shane's Rib Shack and the Mellow Mushroom, said football game days are important for both of her restaurants.
       "Shane's caters to some of the boxes at Paulson stadium, and that is great business for us," she said. "We have a pretty regular rotation where that is concerned, and our staff is used to preparing for those on Saturdays. What is nice is that Shane's provides food for game day, and after the game, the Mellow Mushroom is very busy with folks that have been to the football game. It's like we get a double hit of business on those days. I can't tell you how much we love that and how appreciative we are."
       With parking at premium near the stadium, Buffalo's Southwest Café co-owner Ron Boyd said they have decided to offer their parking lot adjoining Lanier Drive to tailgaters on Georgia Southern game days.
       "Besides stadium parking which is sold out, the only parking lot that is really available to people coming to the game is the one at the RAC," he said. "We are just about as close, so we thought it would be nice to let people park here at Buffalo's. Further, if people park here they may want our wing and sandwich platters to augment their tailgate."
       Boyd said this past weekend that a number of people used his parking lot, but the word isn't out quite yet.
       "We know it will take time, but that's okay," he said. "We had tremendous crowds after the game, so we certainly can't complain. We cooked a lot of wings."
       Sammons said the bump in catering and take-out is very welcome given the recent slowdown which has affected the entire restaurant sector.
       "It isn't any secret that everybody's business is off somewhat," Sammons said. "But when football season rolls around, everyone is excited and wants to eat and have a good time. It is like a shot in the arm. They want all those good comfort foods that they love so much. Thank goodness barbeque is one of those."
       Jim Lanier, owner of Loco's Grill and Pub, said football season is the key to lifting sales out of the summer slump.
      "The end of the summer is miserable for restaurants here, because the students are gone and families are trying to take that last vacation before school starts," he said. "We count on the start of football season to bring our sales up. You need that bump in sales after those few tough weeks."
       Lanier said his staff works long hours preparing for busy Fridays and Saturdays during the Fall. "We sell a tremendous number of chicken finger and chicken wing platters. Those are the two big sellers. Just give us a little bit of notice, and we will have one ready for you."