UVA Darden Alumnus Builds Values-Driven Hospitality Giant
By Liz Jones
Warren Thompson (MBA ’83) is president and chairman of Thompson Hospitality Corp., one of the country’s largest food and facilities management firms. In addition to serving corporate clients, universities and medical centers, the company owns a burgeoning restaurant portfolio, including Austin Grill, American Tap Room and Willie T’s Lobster Shack, among other brands.
Thompson, who said he decided at age 12 to go into the restaurant business, credits hard work and values instilled in him by his family for aiding his career.
“From my perspective,” Thompson said, “the earlier you make your decision as to what it is you want to do, the better. I would say to any aspiring entrepreneur: First go work for someone in the industry. Learn the ins-and-outs of the business. Make mistakes on their dime, as opposed to going out-of-business on yours.”
Thompson views his 4,000-plus Thompson associates as the oxygen that breathes life into his company, and he strives to maintain a high-performance, high-morale culture to neutralize the hospitality sector’s famously high turnover rates.
“One thing that has driven my company for the past 25 years is a strong entrepreneurial spirit,” Thompson said. “From the beginning, I knew I wanted associates who would use their power to think, to do, to act and to take care of customers. And the best way to harness that power is to make them feel invested in the business, much like company owners.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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