Marriott on the Move




Remembering Dr. Burke, My Life-Saver

Posted:02/13/2012 1:32 PM

In August of 1985, I was putting gasoline into my boat at our summer place on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.  I turned on the ignition switch to check the gas level, when I heard an explosion.  The gas fumes had gathered around me as I stood on the deck and exploded with a spark from the switch.  I was engulfed with flames.  I went to the local hospital and was soon taken by helicopter to the Burn Unit at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

John "Jack" Burke MD

I was met by Dr. Jack Burke who was chief of trauma and head of the Burn Unit at MGH.  He cared for me for 16 days.  Dr. Burke passed away in early November at the age of 89.  He saved my life.  When I was admitted to the hospital, I was diagnosed with third degree burns on my hands and legs.  I underwent several hours of surgery.  Dr. Burke took skin from my thigh and grafted the back of my legs and my hands.  I learned that when your hands are burned, they curl up and become claw-like. 

To prevent this and to keep my hands flat after surgery, Dr. Burke used super glue to attach hooks from a lady’s dress to my fingernails.  He then used ping pong paddles with dress hooks at the top.  Then, he stretched my hands flat across the paddles and used rubber bands to attach the hooks on my fingers to the hooks on the paddles.  My hands were stretched flat on the paddles so they wouldn’t curl up.  I had paddles for hands for over a week in the hospital.  Today, my hands are scarred from the burns but they are totally functional.  No claws. Dr. John "Jack" Burke

As I was cared for by Dr. Burke, I learned using paddles to heal burned hands was not his only creation.  The New York Times reported that together with Dr. Ioannis V. Yannas, a professor of fibers and polymers in MIT’s department of Mechanical Engineering, Dr. Burke created artificial skin. 

Over 11 years, these two men led a team that developed a material of amalgam of plastics, cow tissue and shark cartilage that became the first commercially reproducible, synthetic human skin.  It would save the lives of innumerable, severely burned people worldwide.

Dr. Burke served in World War II as a fighter pilot in the Italian Campaign and I once persuaded him to tell me about his encounters with German Messerschmitts over Italy.

I will miss my friend and doctor, Jack Burke.  He was a great blessing in my life. 

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

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Monumental Courage and Conviction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (originally posted for MLK memorial dedication Oct. 2011)

Posted:01/13/201210:56 AM

My parents founded our company in 1927, nearly 30 years before the Civil Rights Movement.  It didn’t matter to them who or what you were, you were welcome.  Back then in the South, here in Washington, D.C., this was a courageous move. But they stuck to their beliefs.

Boardroom Photo

Martin Luther King, Jr. stood up for what he believed in.  I'm still amazed at how he was able to change the face of not just our great country, but of the world.  His courage and heroism continue to inspire me. (Dr. King's portrait is in our boardroom with a note from Coretta Scott King.)

Sunday October 16 was the official dedication of a memorial to Dr. King.  I was really proud Marriott associates were among the throngs of people from across the nation and around the world.  His beliefs of protesting using non-violent means for social change are evident today.  

Dr. King’s speeches and sermons combined themes of democracy deeply embedded in the American conscience, and reinvigorated these messages with clear and insightful reflections on the true meaning of justice and equality. 

Although I never met Dr. King, he is such an inspiration that I was honored to serve on the Martin Luther King Executive Leadership Council to help make this memorial a reality. 

I encourage you to visit the memorial to experience more than a monument, but a place dedicated to honoring a great humanitarian.   

I leave you with one of my favorite Dr. King quotes: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  

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

(Leave a comment on your thoughts of Dr. King.)

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Checking In as a Guest, Leaving as Family

Posted:01/09/201210:33 AM

Joy Bricker went public at the age of 79.  She’s famous for being the 10-year guest at TownePlace Suites in Falls Church, Virginia.  Ten years … in the same room!  Now that’s loyalty and a lot of Rewards points.  It also makes for a great media story.

When Joy announced she was checking-out to move in with her daughter in New York, the media converged -- The Washington Post, CNN and ABC Channel 7 News.  Before you knew it, folks around the world were talking about the lady who for ten years made Marriott her home. 

International Stories

What makes this story so great is not the long “extended stay,” but the “extended family.”  When Joy arrived at the hotel, she was recently widowed and looking for work.  She found a government job and decided not to move out.  

The hotel staff invited her to their homes for dinners and baby showers. The GM visited her when she was in the hospital.  After all, that’s what family does and Joy was family.

People often asked her why she didn’t buy a condo or rent an apartment.  Her answer was that TownePlace Suites made her feel safe, comfortable, and part of their community.  I call that hospitality: caring for our guests, making them feel at home.  And that’s what keeps guests coming back or in Joy’s case staying for a decade – a long time!

On Joy’s moving day, the hotel team members shed some tears when they said goodbye.   After all, a member of their family and recent media star was on her way out.   

I’m told that Joy doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.   Well, it’s about family, an unusual “extended” family.  

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

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'What's Cooking' at Marriott

Posted:10/27/201111:18 AM

BLT PopoversMy career began in the restaurant business.  As the company transitioned over to hotels, I never wanted to lose those roots.  To this day when I visit a hotel, I often go straight to the kitchen to see what’s cooking.

Now you can see what’s cooking by visiting our new website.


It showcases many of our restaurants and bars and gives you the chance to share them with your friends on Facebook and make a reservation on OpenTable, an online reservation system.

We have so many incredible hotel restaurants many run by the world’s best chefs -- Laurent Tourondel, Gordon Ramsay, Kerry Simon, just to name a few. (View the video to see how to works.)

I’m often asked to compile a list of my favorite places to eat. It’s tough to do, like picking my favorite child.  I guess I love them all.  I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but I want to share some of my favorite meals with you:

Order the Tomahawk Ribeye at JW Steakhouse in London at the Grosvenor House.  

You’ll love the New England Sea Scallops at 606 Congress in the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel.

The Brasserie Lipp at the JW Marriott Mexico City makes a decadent dessert, the good old Hot Chocolate Soufflé.

At BLT Steak at Camelback Inn, I recommend ordering kobe and don’t miss out on a popover.

At the Renaissance Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, be sure to order one of the tasting menus at Mercat a la Planxa.

We’ve worked hard to make our restaurants and bars destinations for both out-of-towners and local people.  So, next time you’re looking for a great night out, visit our website, look over the menu and make a reservation.  Bon appetit.

And, please leave a comment on your favorite Marriott restaurant.  

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

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Making the Tough Call

Posted:08/22/2011 3:28 PM


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I bought President Bush’s autobiography, Decision Points, a while ago and during some quiet time over the Fourth of July weekend had an opportunity to read it.

Decision Points Cover

It was obvious that President Bush wrote the book himself.  It included many wonderful, personal stories about him, his courtship of Laura, his drinking problem in his early years, and his very strong, loving relationship with this mother and dad.

I was anxious to learn about the background for his decision to invade Iraq, in search of weapons of mass destruction, since none were found after the fall of the country.  

Bush said he relied on the strong recommendation of the NIE, National Intelligence Estimate, that emphatically stated that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions.  If left unchecked, he believed Iraq would have had a nuclear weapon during this decade. 

In the fall of 2002, Congress supported his congressional war resolution.  The Senate passed it 77 to 23, the House 296 to 133.  Later that fall, the UN Security Council passed a similar war resolution unanimously, 15 to nothing.

Reports of Iraq’s WMD continued to pour in from around the world.  When Bush made the decision to invade, he wrote: “Given everything we knew, allowing Saddam to stay in power would have amounted to an enormous gamble.  I would have had to bet that either every major intelligence agency was wrong or that Saddam would have a change of heart.  After seeing the horror of 9/11, that was not a chance I was willing to take.  Military action was my last resort.  But, I believed it was necessary.”

My major learning from reading Decision Points was the great difficulty the President had in gaining consensus from his White House staff and his cabinet on major decisions that confronted him.  

Frequently, his team ended up with conflicting recommendations, leaving the final decision to the President himself. 

As we know, he was willing to make some tough calls – mostly without the full support of his team.  Many decisions were good and he freely admits that some were not.  But he made the call and he stuck to it.  

While many Americans are still critical of the President’s decision, after reading the book, I believe history will be more kind to him for his strong leadership. 

I’d love to hear what you’re reading this summer.  Send me some recommendations.  

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


 P.S. Here's what you've been reading.  It's compiled from your comments. -- Bill 

"Nothing to Fear" by Adam Cohen; "Try Known and Unknown" by Donald Rumsfeld; "The Miracle of Freedom: 7 Tipping Points that Saved the World" by Chris Stewart; "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot; “Lion In the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt” by Aida Donald; "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett; "The Kennedy Legacy" by Edward "Ted" Kennedy; "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand; "1421 - The Year That China Discovered America" by Gavin Menzies; "The Mastery of Love" by Don Miguel Ruiz; "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor E. Frankl; "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff; "Goodbye To A River" by John Graves; "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham; "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett; "Abraham Lincoln" by James M. McPherson; "The Ark of Millions of Years" by E.J. Clark and B. Alexander Agnew; "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese; "Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki; "John Adams" by David McCullough; "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "Beyond Basketball" by Mike Krzyzewski.

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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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Finding My "Ticket" at a Very Young Age

Posted:06/10/201112:21 PM

Ticket for a Free Root Beer at the Hot Shoppes I recently had another tour through our archives, which really spoke to the very early days of our company.  I remember when I was four or five years old, going up into the attic of our home and finding big boxes filled with A&W Root Beer tickets.  With one of these little orange tickets, if you presented it at a Hot Shoppes, you could get a free root beer.  Back in those days, root beer was selling for about ten cents a drink.  Boy, was I impressed when I saw all those free tickets.

So, I decided to work the neighborhood.  I took a little bag full of tickets and I went door to door trying to sell two tickets for a nickel.  That way, I thought I could boost my allowance and have some income.

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You Can't Lead With Your Feet on the Desk

Posted:03/02/201111:33 AM

You Can't Lead With Your Feet On The Desk Ed Fuller, our president and managing director of international lodging, knows first hand that you can’t lead with your feet on the desk. You’ve got to get those boots on the ground, as Ed says, and I agree with him.  Ed has shown that by just returning from Egypt where we have seven hotels.  When the recent civil unrest unfolded, he knew there was no substitute for being there in person to help our hotel owners and associates through this very difficult, challenging time. 

Ed has just written a new book called — what else? — You Can’t Lead With Your Feet on the Desk.  Among the many great management tips he shares are three that I recommend to you:

One: to respect is to inspire.  The hotel business is all about service, which means it’s all about motivating our frontline people. We can see to it that you get a comfortable bed, but if the person at the front desk hasn’t made you feel very, very welcome, the bed won’t feel great. A salary won’t motivate people to deliver service; they need to believe that they will rise through the organization and find new opportunities if they really take care of our customers. The respect we show our people through a policy that “promotes from within” pays dividends in the experience that our guests enjoy.

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One on One with The Connection by SpringHill Suites

Posted:02/28/2011 4:43 PM

The Connection by SpringHill Suites I recently received a few questions from The Connection by SpringHill Suites, an exclusive online community of the brand’s most passionate guests. I’m delighted to be able to interact with this loyal group of supporters and thank them for being so enthusiastic about this wonderful brand.

Brian Earley asked, “If I had five to seven nights to spend at any Marriott in the world, which would I choose?”

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Taking a Trip Down Memory Lane

Posted:01/21/201111:58 AM

Items in Marriotts Archives When a company has been around for a long time, it’s only natural that there are a lot of historical mementos, keepsakes and records that have accumulated.  We keep a lot of these items from the past in our company archives at our headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland.  We recently refurbished our archives, made them more accessible to our associates and visitors to the building, and just a few weeks ago, I paid a visit and took a trip down memory lane.

It was great to see everything on display there.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the manual for training our waitresses, or what we call servers today, back in the mid 1930s.  There were a couple of quotes that I thought were pretty terrific.  To all our waitresses, it said, “Have a pleasant smile because it will increase your tips.”  We put a lot of focus on proper grooming back in those days.  We were particularly concerned with women manicuring their nails properly.  The manual said, “All servers should have carefully manicured nails – rounded, natural-colored and no bright nail polish.”  Back in those days, we had a lot of rules for consistency and that consistency really helped build our company into what it is today.

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

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