How John Marriott Built a Chain of Hotels

On this day, September 17 in the year 1900, the man who built one of the largest chains of hotels and restaurants in the world was born in Utah, United States. His name was John Willard Marriott, the founder of Marriott Corporation.

John Willard Marriott
John Willard Marriott (Credit:

John Marriott was the son of a poor Mormon rancher. At age 8, he began to work in his father’s farm, raising and selling sheep and wool. At age 19, he travelled to the northeastern part of the US as a Mormon preacher. He returned to Utah to finish college only to learn that his father was already bankrupt. To pay for his college, he applied and was accepted as a teacher in theology. He also sold underwear to lumberjacks.

After graduating in 1926 from the University of Utah, he purchased the franchise to open A&W root beer stands in Washington, D.C. With hard work and commitment to perfection, the operation was successful and soon, added food service called Hot Shoppe. With its quality foods at low prices coupled with shrewd advertising, the restaurant attracted legions of customers. It opened more branches throughout the capital city.

In 1937, John Marriott began selling prepared food boxes to airlines, thus starting the inflight catering industry. During World War II, he opened cafeterias in government buildings and in factories in nearby states. After the war, his restaurants numbered more than 50. In 1953, he built a hotel near the National Airport. With 370 rooms, it was the largest motel in the world at that time.

In 1964, the company was renamed Marriott Hot Shoppes, Inc. Three years later, it was changed again to Marriott Corporation to better reflect its expanded operations which included hotels. In 1968, the company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1972, John Marriott relinquished his CEO position to his son, John Jr. He remained chairman until his death due to heart failure in 1985. At the time of his death, Marriott Corporation had more than 1400 restaurants and 140 hotels and resorts with 140,000 employees in 26 countries.



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