Melissa Riley has always had a quirky personality, a “freak of nature” her husband calls her. Riley refers to herself as dedicated, driven and caring. She loves to have fun whether that’s playing with her 16-month-old daughter Kierney, or traveling with her husband Sean, and their friends.
“Melissa is strict without acting like it, she’s able to tell you how to do something and what to do, but she does it in a fun way, a respectable way and she just makes it a really nice place to work,” said Matthew Buchheim, one of Riley’s employees at Starbucks. “I admire her quality to order her staff to do stuff, but at the same time they still see her as a fun person that they enjoy being around.”
Melissa is the general manager of seven restaurants on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. She is constantly moving from one to another making sure everything is running smoothly. Her passion for food ignited when she was young, from cooking and baking with her mother. Her mother always made each meal from scratch and made sure they ate together as a family.
“I liked food and I loved cooking, and I like the experience you create when eating at a restaurant,” Riley said. “When you go out it is usually for something special and you feel like you can put your energy into it as a job, which sounded fun to me.”
Riley majored in hotel restaurant management as a freshman and did not question the decision once. During school, Riley had jobs at Olive Garden and at a comedy club called Deja Vu. When she graduated in 2004, she already had a job lined up as a manager at Longhorn Steakhouse in Chicago. After two years she left the job and the city, but eventually found her way back to Missouri when she landed a job with The Cheesecake Factory. She moved around for a while helping open new restaurants and expanding The Cheesecake Factory’s business. Along the way, she met her husband and they moved to Columbia so he could go back to school at MU.
That is what brought Riley to MU, and she has now been here four and a half years. Although it is not exactly the type of career she imagined, Riley finds the quality of the work ultimately satisfying.
“I guess I never envisioned myself at a college,” she said. “Although now that I’m here, it’s like the best place ever to work. All of my employees are super smart, and it is such a great environment.”
The hectic pace of keeping seven restaurants operating requires commitment and energy, but Riley also remembers to protect some time for herself. She finds time to work out in the mornings to stay in shape and feels like she is accomplishing something that is more challenging for her. Riley enjoys playing with her daughter and just joking around with her husband. Having fun together as a family and enjoying her time with them is an essential part of her life. She hopes to have more children at some point and hopefully even adopt a child.
“There are so many kids out there that need a good family, that we would be able to give to them,” Riley said.
With a fulfilling job and a loving family, Riley is satisfied with her accomplishments. She’s living the best life she can and enjoying all of the wonderful things she has made for herself.
“I am just the happiest I have ever been probably,” Riley said.