Trip Advisor’s highest rated bed and breakfast in Columbia, Missouri, and the University of Missouri have something in common. The Gathering Place, located on College Avenue, is owned by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources and is operated by students and faculty in the hospitality management program.
Housed in one of Columbia’s original homes, the B&B offers a unique blend of convenience, with its proximity to campus, historic charm and modern amenities, as its website notes. The home has held a commanding view over the white campus of MU for more than a century.
CAFNR services in addition to The Gathering Place, include Tiger Garden, Buck’s Ice Cream and Mizzou Meat Market. These businesses “showcase the College’s signature research, education and outreach programs while providing top-quality products to the public and experience for our students,” as noted in a prospective student view book.
Working at the bed and breakfast is a truly immersive educational experience for all involved and students gain exposure to many aspects of the lodging, hospitality, and food service industry, said Deborah (Deb) Strid, facility innkeeper.
“[Students] are not stuck at a front desk or in one particular area,” Strid said. “They get an overall experience and a well-rounded feel of the different operations that go into a hotel and small venues.”
For Sarah Shively, a hospitality management major with a lodging emphasis, working for The Gathering Place just made sense. After graduation, she plans to work in hotel management and later operate a bed and breakfast of her own.
Over the course of a day’s work, one can find Shively cleaning rooms, doing laundry, configuring key codes, offering tours to guests, prepping for the breakfast meal, handling reservations, and managing customer inquiries.
“Coming in [to the job], I didn’t appreciate how much hard work it would be,” Shively said. “Coming in early on the weekends kills you, but it’s worth it.”
As of late 2016, there were seven student employees who worked as kitchen staff and/or housekeepers and servers, many of whom call the hospitality management major their home.
“I got more [invested] into my core classes after I got this job,” Shively said. “I’ve learned a lot of the lessons being taught by getting the real-world experience here.”
The busiest times of the year for the bed and breakfast coincide with celebrations occurring at MU or in the Columbia community. Football game days, sorority and fraternity weekend events, graduation, Summer Welcome programming for incoming students, and university conferences, speakers, and events are often some of the hardest times to secure lodging at this close-to-campus venue.
For Shively, the relationships built with staff, faculty and guests have been her favorite part of working at The Gathering Place and is a primary component of her job.
“I am always working with people,” Shively said. “I get to make connections with the guests, and if they’re hospitality faculty that are visiting, [it is helping] for future job references and connections.”
For Shively and Strid both, service is the most important element of working at The Gathering Place.
“We want to shine here as we welcome individuals to MU,” Strid said. “We take good care of our guests on a more personal basis than you would at a large hotel.”