For some people who step on UNC’s campus, North Carolina is synonymous with basketball.
On Nov. 7, the UNC men’s basketball team will return for another attention-filled year, attracting people from around the state to Chapel Hill. Because stadium tickets are often hard to come by, restaurants in Chapel Hill are popular secondary locations to watch games in large crowds.
When there's lot of hype surrounding basketball season, that means big business for Franklin Street staples.
Four Corners owner Kristian Bawcom said the typical preparations for a basketball season have included ensuring enough product was available and hiring additional staff. He’s seen Chapel Hill through basketball highs and lows and said preseason rankings are a clear indicator of how busy the restaurant will be. Just a few weeks ago, the Tar Heels secured the number-one spot in the Associated Press's preseason top 25 poll.
Bawcom said basketball season carries meaning beyond the potential business. Not only does his restaurant serve fans during special moments throughout the season, but he’s a fan himself. He said he's witnessed some of the most iconic UNC basketball moments from inside his restaurant.
According to Bawcom, there's one memory that stands out in particular.
“My wife (was) sitting in the kitchen on a pickle bucket, because she was afraid to come out when Luke Maye hit the shot against Kentucky,” Bawcom recalled.
However, while Chapel Hill is most known for its busy basketball season, it's not necessarily the best season for these restaurants financially. Bawcom said football season brings more people to town than basketball, and Top of the Hill owner Scott Maitland agrees.
He said he believes that football’s weekend scheduling allows more out-of-town patrons to enjoy the game at a restaurant, whereas basketball's weekday evening schedule attracts smaller groups of fans.
Maitland doesn’t hire any employees specifically for games, but adds staff during the fall, as that’s normally a busier time. Rivalry games don’t require extra employees, he said, which he credits to Top of the Hill’s size and preparations for large crowds.
Another local establishment that's seen plenty of UNC basketball seasons is Carolina Coffee Shop, which has been open for just over a century. As the front-of-house manager of the popular breakfast joint, Olivia Robertson said she often hears patrons discuss fond memories of UNC basketball.
Robertson said the restaurant's preparation for the season differs because of the employees, who are mostly students who have to work around classes and busy weekends.
She said the coffee shop began by going through the schedules of current employees to see availability. This way, they could hire to fill in gaps if they knew weekends or particular games would be understaffed. Robertson said she often allows student employees to attend games if they are able to land tickets.
Robertson said the alumni conversations are what she looks forward to most during basketball season, and thinks Carolina Coffee Shop’s history makes it a special place for game days.
“It’s a landmark that they can come back to, no matter how long they’ve been away from UNC, and still feel a bit of memory,” Robertson said.
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