He was living on a “little dirt patch of farm” in Utah. His family was barely “getting by” raising sheep.
John Willard had no education, no money, and what looked like no future. What he did have though was a drive and determination for self-improvement...
After graduating from a two year community college he moved to Washington DC to open a food stand selling hot dogs, burgers, and chilli. Many people were doing this but what separated him from the rest?
He took special notice of his customer’s experience. One thing in particular was that the majority of his customers ordered food prior to going on flights. He asked why and they responded, “Because Airlines did not serve any food on board.”
Jumping on this opportunity, he launched catering services for airlines. These restaurants later became known as Hot Shoppes.
He became known for aggressively finding opportunities like these all around him.
For example every winter he would go to any restaurant similar to his and take notes about the different recipes they were using, the napkins, wrappers, and anything else he could find.
He thought about precisely what could be integrated into his existing business to make it even better.
It was that discipline, that innovation, plus his approach to employees that gave him an even greater advantage over the competition.
He cared deeply about his employees and instilled in them that it was acceptable to make mistakes.
He knew this would cause them to learn, grow, and give them opportunities to demonstrate what they were capable of.
“He developed the culture we talk about today, which is to take care of your people and they will take care of the customer, and then the customer will come back.”
It was these disciplines that resulted in his company becoming the largest airline caterer in the world.
This eventually shifted from the restaurant business to the hotel business. Today you would know these hotels as The Marriot and the founder, John Williard Marriott.