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April 25, 2013 Volume 34, No. 28

Students learn hospitality business by catering MU staff and faculty events

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BUSINESS LUNCH Chancellor Brady J. Deaton, left, and Tom Hiles, vice chancellor for University Advancement, were served lunch by MU student Jeremy Herrin April 8 at the Campaign Leadership Summit in Reynolds Alumni Center. Students earn money and gain practical experience in hospitality careers by working events. Photo by Rachel Coward.


Some students oversee an event from planning to conclusion

Tables are set. Staff and faculty write their names on sticky nametags. Slowly they filter into the Reynolds Alumni Center’s Great Room, where waiters stand ready to serve.  

A busy day awaits them as they serve food and beverages to faculty, staff and guests at multiple events. But their busy-ness doesn’t end there. Many of the wait staff are students, as well.

About 180 MU students work for The University Club and University Catering & Event Services. The University Club served 76, 469 guests in banquet events in 2012. University Catering & Event Services can serve up to 20 events per day. 

The two businesses operate somewhat independently but also complement each other. The University Club organizes events in the Reynolds Alumni Center’s five available rooms, whereas University Catering & Event Services caters food on and off campus. 

MU students work events for both groups, and although the majority of them bartend and serve food, four students majoring in hospitality are chosen to intern for the services. The two-semester internship allows students to try three areas of event management: planning and executing, preparing food arrangements, and coordinating service.  

The goal is that by the end of their internship, they can take an event from its inception to its conclusion, said Carolyn Foreman, event manager of University Club.

To achieve this, students rotate to different positions throughout the fall semester. For a few weeks, they’ll work alongside the sous and executive chefs to learn to prep food. Another week, interns learn about contract negotiation and dealing with clients’ requests in the sales department.

Then, after they’ve experienced all the different facets of event planning, students pick a permanent location to work during spring semester. 

Many times their department preference is different from the department they end up in. Jessi Linebaugh, for instance, never expected to pick working in sales over food service. As a hospitality management major with an emphasis in food and beverage management, she expected to work in the banquet service realm of event production during spring. 

“I love the food,” she said. “But I’m not an artist or a chef or anything like that. Being in this internship, I’ve started liking the conferences and events. I’m wishing I double-emphasized” in conference and events.

Though she didn’t take classes to learn the sales aspect of event planning, she’s learning it through experience. She works 20 to 30 hours per week at the sales office. She is part of the team.

Linebaugh talks with clients and keeps in contact with them. She marks up contracts and communicates with the separate departments that ultimately create an event. 

“I’ve learned so much here,” Limbaugh said and rattled off some examples. “I mean, how many servers show up to work that day? You don’t even realize how much that would affect an event’s outlook.”

Beyond the more minute details, such as the number of servers on staff, Linebaugh coordinates key components. 

She discusses food-catering options, such as ethnic food, buffet spreads and just about  anything else a client requests. She plans the room’s schematics from the available options and adjusts them to make the room for whatever a client might require. And then, when needed, Linebaugh problem solves.

“It really is a puzzle,” she said. “There are so many different pieces you need.”

Linebaugh’s internship experience has culminated in her planning a 400-person Greek organization event held this month on the Francis Quadrangle. It required two months of work. 

“I’ve never had an experience quite like this,” she said. “It’s been really beneficial.”

— Ashley Carman