WACO, Texas: Saturday would normally be one of the most chaotic days on the Waco calendar with Baylor’s annual Homecoming parade and home football game, but this year leaves local restauranteurs disappointed.

On a normal Homecoming Saturday, George’s Restaurant would be at its maximum capacity of around 400 people. With half capacity and no alumni flocking to the city, it looks a lot different these days.

“The place is like a ghost town,” manager Kevin Lopez said. “You’re used to customers around every single corner of the restaurant.”

George’s and Shorty’s Pizza Shack have become synonymous with the Baylor community.

Without the alumni coming, it dishes a blow not only to their bank accounts, but also to their morale.

“It’s definitely a let-down, definitely sad for all of us,” Shorty’s general manager Christopher Salazar said. “A lot of us look forward to Homecoming weekend too because we get to see a lot of our friends who have moved off or people who used to be regulars at the restaurant, old students coming back and saying hello. I guess ‘melancholy’ is a good word, without events going on on campus.”

Events like the annual bonfire and parade were moved online and the football game vs. Oklahoma State has been postponed to December due to COVID concerns, leaving months of planning to go to waste.

“Definitely a lot of planning goes into it, ordering a lot more food in preparation, having extra staff,” Salazar said. “We’ll typically run extra staff starting on Thursday on a typical Homecoming weekend just because we know we are gonna be so busy.”

Through a more low-key weekend than they were expecting, these small businesses are finding the silver lining.

“I wouldn’t say [the weekend is] disappointing,” Lopez said. “We’re glad we do have our doors open and people still coming out to support us.”

Salazar didn’t hide his discontent, but opted for a positive outlook for the future.

“It is disappointing,” Salazar said. “We’d love to see all the people and visitors, but hopefully it’s just a one year pause and we can get back to normal next year.”