- Written by Richard E. Marriott
On the day they were to be married in the Salt Lake Temple, my father didn’t show up when the ceremony was supposed to start. He was trying to get his commissions from the woolen mills. He arrived at the wedding two-and-a-half hours late, with no money. He asked my mother, “Do you still want to marry me?” She said, “yes,” of course. His mother-in-law had the presence of mind to cancel the wedding reception and give Dad the $200 they were going to spend for the reception. With that money, mom and dad jumped into his Model T Ford and started their two-week drive to Washington, D.C.
My mother was a tremendous partner to my father. She kept the books for their new nine-seat restaurant, which opened up the day Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic, 20 May 1927. Every night she would take the nickels, which were covered in root beer syrup, and wash them in the kitchen sink (the bank wouldn’t accept sticky nickels). She’d then put the clean coins into a paper bag and walk down to the bank around midnight to make the deposit of the day’s revenue. She understood what it took to run a restaurant, and she supported my dad throughout his career because she loved him and appreciated the work he was doing.
I learned a lot of important lessons from my parents, many of which are the same ones you’ll be learning not only in the business world, but also at the Marriott School.
Success Is Never Final
Change is what puts life in your business and in your life. The customer needs change constantly, and your business and you have to change to meet those needs. When my folks opened their root beer stand, they had one product: ice-cold root beer. That worked great from May through September. October rolled around and it got cold and rainy in Washington, D.C. Nobody wanted ice-cold root beer. The customers my father still had said, “Hey, you better get something hot in here to eat or you’re going to be out of business.”
Fortunately, my folks lived next to the Mexican Embassy. My mother spoke a little Spanish and befriended the chef at the embassy. He gave her his secret recipe for chili and hot tamales. My father put up a new sign over the A&W root beer stand that read, “Hot Shoppe,” and mother prepared their new Mexican recipes. They served root beer, hot tamales, and chili in what was now a “real” restaurant. It was a very explosive menu, but it worked, and provided the foundation for one of the largest restaurant chains in the eastern United States.