Leadership, Negotiation and Meat Loaf: One Ensign’s Veterans Day Memories

November 11, 2019
Bill Marriott in Navy uniform in 1924
I had the privilege and honor to serve in the U.S. Navy shortly after graduating from the University of Utah in 1954.

I was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy in June 1954. I was assigned to the U.S.S. Randolph aircraft carrier and given the job of wardroom mess officer where my team provided three meals a day for several hundred officers – most of whom had strong opinions about what they should be eating and how it should be prepared.

As I shared in Dale Van Atta’s new biography “Bill Marriott: Success is Never Final,” my Navy service was a perfect training ground for a career in hospitality. I was a manager of a large floating restaurant with a captive audience of very demanding patrons.

I gained valuable leadership and negotiating skills during my tenure. I also learned when it’s best to remain silent and accept that not everyone will agree with my opinion. I learned I didn’t have to win every argument, especially if it’s about meat loaf. Below is an excerpt from the biography about that priceless experience. As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, I want to salute all of the brave men and women who selflessly have answered the call to serve their country.

From Chapter 6:

My “greatest challenge was dealing with the stubborn World War II veteran ‘stewards’ or cooks….I got into it with them about how they were making the meat loaf, so I gave them our Hot Shoppes recipe for it. They ignored me. They wanted to cook the way they wanted to cook, and their meat loaf was, well, terrible. They were tough as nails, and they didn’t give a crap about me or anything else. When I tried to pull rank on them, the meat loaf only got worse. This went on for weeks until I finally folded my cards and crept away, dropping the family recipe back into my sea bag. And they continued making crappy meat loaf.”

Still, “I loved being at sea,” Bill reflected, and he gained useful knowledge as one of the managers of a large floating hotel with a massive guest list. “Brief as it was, my navy experience has carried over in many large and small ways. I still shine my shoes every day.”

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

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