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How Thompson Hospitality’s president followed Marriott’s blueprint to massive success

Warren Thompson has built a nearly $1 billion company with a diversified model similar to his former employer’s. Find out what has been key to that success.


Warren Thompson knew he wanted to open a restaurant when he was 12 years old. He recalls sitting in a Shoney’s at that age and telling his parents that he was going to be a restaurateur. Thompson had a model for entrepreneurial success: his great-great-grandfather, who was born into slavery but eventually opened his own blacksmith business.

Later in life, Thompson had another model for success: Marriott International, the company that employed him as a young adult. After nine years and countless lessons at Marriott, Thompson struck out on his own with Thompson Hospitality in 1992, accomplishing his dream of becoming a restaurateur by purchasing 31 Bob’s Big Boys from Marriott (and then converting them to Shoney’s).

Thompson has since followed Marriott’s blueprint for success with Thompson Hospitality, diversifying his revenue streams similar to that company; along with restaurants, the group is also active in the contract food service and hotel industries. Today, Thompson Hospitality is the largest minority-owned food management company in the U.S., doing nearly $1 billion in revenue. The business includes about 70 restaurant locations across 18 brands, including house-developed concepts as well as acquisitions. 

Thompson joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches to talk about the secrets to his success, why the diversified operations model works so well, and how the group’s talent development is helping to pave its way to becoming a billion-dollar company.

In this conversation, you’ll find out why:

  • There are plenty of blueprints for success available to you
  • You can hedge against the volatile economy by diversifying your revenue streams
  • Brand acquisition allows you to move into a market much faster than if you built from scratch
  • It’s better to compete with yourself than to compete with someone else
  • With multiple brands in your portfolio, you can focus your geographic reach and create multiple efficiencies
  • In the restaurant arms race, the winners will be those who can attract and retain the best and brightest employees
  • If you want to start your own company, start by getting as much experience as you can with other industry leaders

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

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