John Willard Marriott – HALL OF FAME AWARD WINNER
John Willard Marriott (1900-1985)
Founder and Chairman
A philosophy of hard work, clean living and a sometimes obsessive commitment to perfection enabled J. Willard Marriott to turn a nine-stool root beer stand into one of the fastest-growing, most diversified and most profitable companies in the highly competitive American food and lodging business.
Having witnessed poverty and wanting a better future, Marriott, who never graduated high school, decided to complete his education. He talked his way into Weber State College, a community college that had recently been established in Ogden, Utah. Two years later, Marriott transferred to the Univ. of Utah.
During his senior year, an A&W root beer stand opened in Salt Lake City. With $1,500 of his own and a $1,500 loan, Marriott opened a nine-stool root beer stand on 14th Street in Washington, D.C. in 1927. Recognizing the seasonal nature of the soft-drink business, he got A&W’s permission to add food service and opened his first Hot Shoppe. Employing shrewd promotional tactics − such as giving out free root beer coupons on street corners and offering quality food at low prices − Marriott quickly expanded, adding two locations.
Always pursuing improvement, he began offering the first drive-in service on the East Coast. Customers loved it, and soon all three Hot Shoppes offered drive-in service. By 1932, Marriott had seven restaurants in the D.C. area and was nearly a millionaire.
Marriott’s next innovation came in 1937: Hoover National Airport (current site of the Pentagon), when he began selling pre-boxed meals directly to the airlines, giving birth to the in-flight catering industry. Within a year, he was servicing 20 daily flights.
After 30 years in the food business, Marriott took his biggest career gamble, opening his first motor hotel near Washington National Airport. His eldest son, Bill Jr., was named to run the company, which, in 1964 became Marriott Hot Shoppes Inc. In 1968, the company, now named Marriott Corp., gained its listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Bill Jr. succeeded his father as CEO in 1972, continuing the expansion of the company’s hotel business, concentrating on business travelers. Marriott remained chairman.
Upon his death in 1985, J. Willard Marriott had built a major hotel chain, several restaurant chains and flight kitchens serving 150 airlines. By 1999, Marriott International had become the 13th-largest U.S. employer, the second-largest global lodging company and was operating or franchising more than 1,900 hotels.