Story by Mike Zweifel
The members Matthew Smith served at the University Club wanted the whole experience — high-quality food in a fine-dining environment. When ordering, they would often look up at Smith and ask him what wine would pair best with their meal. As a young server, Smith never knew what to say.
Seeing an opportunity to increase the member experience, he took the initiative. “I learned about wines to help make recommendations to guests,” Smith says. “Eventually I learned enough to be one of the few sommeliers [wine stewards] in Columbia.”
Smith’s career at the U Club also progressed, as he rose from a server to a supervisor. “I was encouraged to be successful, and the spirit of mentorship from the leadership of the U Club really helped me,” he says.
Smith worked at the Club from 2011 to 2016 and rejoined the staff in 2017 after running the dining operations at a country club in Sedalia, Missouri.
Now, as service supervisor, he is once again using his wine expertise, this time to prepare monthly Wine Club events. He’s adding a new feature that he calls the “bonus round” — top-quality, hard-to-find wines that fit with the theme of that month’s Wine Club event. At last month’s event, an Israeli Chardonnay and an Oloroso Sherry were selected for the bonus round.
Smith also oversees the main dining room, Tiger Bistro and special dinner events. And, as a certified etiquette instructor, he teaches etiquette classes.
The classes and the server training program at the Club are examples of the spirit of mentorship Smith benefitted from as a younger team member. They all help students learn how to sell themselves.
“The techniques are the same to sell a drink or a jet,” Smith says, “You need to be able to sell yourself to a potential employer, and our server training prepares students for their careers, no matter their field.”
Away from the University Club, Smith likes to ride his motorcycle, paint, cook and read. (One book recommendation is Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell.)
Smith is already working on the next Wine Club event and is narrowing down what the theme will be. He won’t dish any spoilers, though.
“It’s going to be a surprise for the [Wine Club] members,” he says.