Downtown Columbia businesses gear up for Mizzou football home opener

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COLUMBIA - Tens of thousands of fans pour into Columbia on game days and downtown restaurants are ready for Mizzou football's home schedule to begin.  

"Football season is the busiest time of the year for us," Shakespeare's Pizza - Downtown General Manager Toby Epstein said. "Not on just game days, but throughout the fall semester is when we do most of our business."

Restaurants get ready by prepping enough food to satisfy the appetites of the customers drawn to Columbia for game days.

"We make about a thousand pizzas per football game," Epstein continued. "When you're increasing the amount of product you're going to put out there you really have to prep and prepare for that."

Mizzou football kickoffs can be as early as 11 a.m. or as late as 7 p.m.

Epstein noted that business is slow in the morning when games kickoff at 11 a.m. and starts to "kick up" after halftime.

But where Epstein finds frustration with early kickoffs Harold's Donut owner Michael Urban sees an opportunity to make more money.

"When folks [set up] tailgates set up early [as] 8 o'clock or even as early as 7 those donuts are getting out really early in the morning," Urban said. "Those are the best kickoff times for us."

Harold's Donuts capitalizes on the game day breakfast rush and offers delivery to tailgates via bicycles.

"We've got cyclists who are really experienced that know what they’re doing," Urban said. "They can navigate the roads and parking lots that are out there full of fans and not have the donuts spill."

But one concern for another downtown business owner does not involve serving pizza in the morning or spilling donuts.

Richard Robertson, co-owner of Booche's, is not happy that SEC Nation this Saturday will not be held at the Francis Quadrangle.

Francis Quadrangle has offered its columns as an iconic backdrop for NCAA football pregame shows like College Game Day and SEC Nation.

However, on Saturday SEC Nation will air from the west side of the Hearnes Center.

Robertson claims past pregame shows at Francis Quadrangle have brought in extra customers for downtown businesses and is "highly disappointed" in SEC Nation's location for Saturday.

So far, Mizzou's 2019 home schedule varies with the earliest kickoff at 11 a.m. against West Virginia on Saturday and the latest at 6:30 p.m. on September 14 versus South East Missouri State.

The rest of the schedule's start times are to be decided.