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Fond Farewell to a Marriott Friend

Posted:07/25/201110:27 AM

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On July 6, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal published extensive obituaries on my friend, George Lang, one of America’s most successful restaurateurs.

George Lang

George had a truly fascinating and exciting life.  He was born in Hungary in 1924.  He was Jewish and escaped a Nazi forced-labor camp and imminent execution in the Second World War.  He came to New York with no money, but with hopes of becoming a concert violinist.   

When his violin career did not work out, he pursued a career in restaurants.  He worked for Restaurant Associates and was instrumental in establishing the Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City, one of the world’s most famous.  George also established and ran the famous Café des Artistes Restaurant in New York.  He wrote a lot of cookbooks and was one of the most renowned restaurateurs of all time.  

George Lang's Book Cover

When he left Restaurant Associates, we got together.  As we talked we came to the conclusion that it might be a good idea for George to establish a consulting business and I offered us up as the first client.  At that time, we were big-time in the airline catering business.  We just acquired the Qantas Airline account at our London Flight Kitchen at Heathrow.  Qantas flights to Australia were, of course, a long haul and very expensive in first class.  They were charging a lot and expected the highest level of service.

George volunteered to go to London and create a very high-end food service for Qantas in-flight catering.  He not only designed it, he stayed on in the kitchen for many weeks, training the chefs and ensuring that they did an outstanding job. 

When we opened our Marriott hotel in Budapest, Hungary, I was there for the opening and George showed up.  He was there opening a very famous restaurant in Budapest and joined us for dinner.  

He was a great friend and George and I worked together on many projects through the years.  I will miss him.  He made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry for over 40 years.  And he certainly helped me out when I really needed it the most with Qantas in London.  

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move. 

George Lang Obituary (The New York Times)

 

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"Hands-On" Teaching is Key to Success

Posted:07/18/201111:17 PM

 

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When I served on the General Motors board, I had a chance to work with Bob Lutz.  Bob came on board as Vice Chairman of General Motors, primarily working on product development.  He’s written a new book, which has been covered in The Wall Street Journal.  The excerpts tell about how Bob came on board GM … found that their culture was somewhat stifling.  They had a lot of meetings, they didn’t make a lot of decisions, everybody was nice to everybody, but not much got done.  

Bob Lutz's book

Then he compared the General Motors management style with that of Ferdinand Piëch, the chairman of Volkswagen, who was an autocrat who ordered people what to do and they got it done whether they thought it was right or not.  

Bob then went on to talk about how he tried to put in a new approach to management at General Motors.  He said working in product development he got some cars in from the competitors -- some of the best: Audis, Toyota and Lexus -- took his people into the shop floor and showed them how to better design products for General Motors.  His bottom line was: it’s better to teach people and train people, rather than to order them around or to sit around and talk about this project without making decisions.  

His bias for teaching and training is a similar bias that we have had at Marriott for some 84 years.  We know that if we train and teach our associates, not only do they serve the guests better, but they also do a much better job of staying with the company.  They feel comfortable in their work, they feel that they have entered the ladder of success and can go up that ladder to newer and better positions.  

GM Flint Engine Plant

 

In my opinion, Bob’s on the right track.  Teaching and training is far better than sitting around and pondering and not doing very much … or being an autocrat and ordering everybody what to do.  

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

Download book excerpt

 

 

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Serving Opportunity in New Orleans

Posted:07/11/201111:10 AM

 

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One of my favorite days of the year is Marriott’s worldwide day of volunteerism known as “Spirit to Serve Our Communities Day.” 

Spirit to Serve Day

I like to help out, especially in the kitchen.  So this year, I visited the Universities at Shady Grove campus in Maryland to talk to its hospitality students about our industry.  Together we prepared meals for those in need.


One of the most important messages I shared was our company’s guiding principle called “Spirit to Serve.”  “Spirit to Serve” is not only about helping our guests, but it reaches out to the community through volunteerism.  On this special day, I learned all about Café Reconcile. It’s a non-profit restaurant, located in the severely distressed Central City neighborhood of New Orleans, one of my very favorite cities.  It serves as a training ground for ambitious students who want a career in the food service industry.  This program is a recipe for improving one’s life skills.  An important part of that recipe is learning how to cook-up some of the best Po Boys and gumbo in all of New Orleans.  

Our Ritz-Carlton New Orleans associates learned about Café Reconcile a few years ago and started to volunteer on their days off.

Today, The Ritz-Carlton New Orleans has made Café Reconcile a volunteer partner.  Through the hotel’s Community Footprints program, it provides financial and in-kind donations.  But that’s not all.  Students visit the hotel for cooking demonstrations, mentoring and internships.  It’s hands-on experience in one of the top kitchens in the country.  But the partnership with Café Reconcile doesn’t stop there.  Many recent graduates who interned in our kitchen are now working full time. 

Whether at Café Reconcile New Orleans or Universities at Shady Grove in Maryland, it’s all about building stronger communities. 

Whitney in 2nd grade violin class

One quick footnote on New Orleans:  we’re issuing our Katrina Disaster Relief Report.  In the first five years after the hurricane struck, we contributed six million dollars and hundreds of volunteer hours.  So, check out the report and find out more about our efforts to rebuild New Orleans. 

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the Move.

 

Katrina Disaster Relief Report

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From Herdsmen to Hotel Workers

Posted:07/05/2011 2:53 PM

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When we open the doors to a new hotel, we also open the doors to a world of opportunity for people who may never have imagined that they could work for a company like Marriott. 

Philip Papadopoulos

Philip Papadopoulos is the general manager of the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa and recently told me the inspiring story of how his hotel helped poor farmers and herdsmen in Jordan break out of the bounds of poverty.

Since it opened in 2002, the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort has looked for dedicated people to successfully run the 250-room hotel. They recruited associates from the capital city of Amman, but they also took a bold step to source employees from two local villages.

The idea of working at a resort was only a dream for those villagers who depended on the land for their livelihood.  They endured below-poverty conditions with family members living in one room, no plumbing, thin walls, and dirt floors on which they placed their blankets to sleep.

  

 

When the hotel’s human resources team reached out to these farmers, many locals questioned the wisdom of such a move.  But they soon found that a number of farmers were eager to work for the resort.  The hotel training team first offered them hygiene, grooming and etiquette classes. Then they taught them hospitality skills. And finally the farmers and herdsmen were offered English lessons so they could talk to our guests.  

Philip said the team went on to do even more for these associates.  For example, rather than discard used, but still very useful items like furniture, mattresses and linen, they donated them to the associates, who had little more than a ragged blanket, a few chickens and some sheep. 

The risk of hiring these villagers has really paid off.  Nine years later more than half the associates working at the hotel are from that same little village.  Philip says, “They come to work eager to serve, their shoes polished and their smiles wide.”  

I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear stories like Philip’s. I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

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I'm Bill Marriott, Chairman & CEO of Marriott International.

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