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Living through a Defining Moment in History - Carmen's Group
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Hamilton Sign

Living through a Defining Moment in History

Monday, March 23, 2020


Dear Carmen’s Group Family,

Take a deep breath, pause for a moment and reflect on the following point: We are living through a defining moment in world history.

Our parents and grandparents lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression and other significant global events. Conversely, our generation has enjoyed a relatively charmed existence on planet earth – one with far more privilege than the struggles that our ancestors endured. Now it’s our time to roll with the hard knock punches of life as we band together to fight an invisible enemy. We are living through a turning point in the history of our world. Make no mistake about it: These are Historic Times, and we are all experiencing hardship of some form.

For our company this is especially challenging. We are in hospitality – a business of human connections, so to learn that social gatherings are banned is devastating. For the next few weeks, possibly months, our revenues at most venues will be close to zero but will come back slowly as the world readjusts. In accordance with our Vision, Purpose, and Values, I understand this wholeheartedly and accept that we must adjust and adapt our company plans in response to this challenging global crisis. The world has never encountered a global event that has wreaked havoc on life everywhere and caused the global economic system to grind to a halt. Concerts, movie releases, sporting events, and major events of all forms have cancelled and tourist destinations like Italy and California are on full lockdown. It is so surreal that it is hard to fathom. I genuinely feel as if I’m living in a dream, and I ask myself, why is this happening? Upon deep reflection I have come to the following realization: what is happening is bigger than any one person, business, industry or country. This is about the survival of humanity and the survival of our planet. It’s as simple – and as complicated – as that.

When Coronavirus began to spread out of control around the planet, causing the death of so many people, it became apparent that if this trend continues at such an aggressive pace that our entire health care system will be in jeopardy (and it still may be). To their credit our world leaders acknowledged, perhaps intuitively and instinctively, that public health matters more than public wealth. In the end the only true wealth is health, so our leaders are doing the right thing by putting the well-being of humanity first. We have proven that we can bounce back from the collapse of the stock markets and economic turmoil, but I think we can all agree that we never want to witness the collapse of the global health care system as that would be catastrophic. Public health wins, as it rightfully should.

Something that also gave me intense pause upon hearing about the government lockdowns in China and Italy is this interesting fact: Satellite imaging demonstrated that pollution into the atmosphere has dropped, with a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions in China from factories that have stopped production. The same goes for air quality levels in Italy, which have dramatically improved since their self-imposed lockdown. As human and economic activity has halted, Mother Earth has taken a deep breath of relief and has started to heal herself. Our planet has been crying for help for far too long – why did it take a global health pandemic for us to give her a chance to breath? Call me crazy, but it feels as if there is a major reboot happening in civilization right now. One massive and mega “Control-Alt-Delete” where our priorities are getting re-shifted right before our eyes.

Another one of the silver linings that I have experienced during this ordeal is seeing how everybody is bonding together in this fight. We all acknowledge that we are in this together – and humanity is pulling through for the sake of humanity. Government’s everywhere have stepped up impressively for the common good – offering trillions of dollars in support for people and businesses who need it to survive. The generosity of the human spirit is a beautiful thing – and I have been so touched by the compassion demonstrated to our business by our lenders and various partners as we maneuver through this crisis. We are collectively realizing that taking care of one another comes first – and what a beautiful thing that is to witness.

I have never been more proud and grateful to be the CEO of this company. At a time when our company is enduring its greatest fight yet, leaders at all levels are rising up – at every venue, in every department. The never-give-up attitude of our team – of all of YOU – give me the energy to press forward into unknown terrain with unforgiving courage. It has pained me immensely – more than you could possibly imagine – to take the drastic but necessary steps to ensure the survival of the company. Like all of you, I have had my share of emotional days, of ‘trying’ days that have tested my will and spirit – but hearing your positive feedback and seeing many of you rising up has inspired me. For that I am eternally grateful, and I give you my word that I will give every ounce of my very being to ensure that our company not only survives this storm but that we are better positioned than ever to create the hospitality destinations of tomorrow.

This crisis has made me more appreciative of every customer, of every member of our team and of every space in every one of our venues. I have never been more fired up in my entire life to ensuring that we fulfill our ultimate destiny in becoming the hospitality leaders in Hamilton, and then across this province. Simultaneous to achieving this vision, we will also ensure that our company diversifies just enough to protect ourselves from any future disruption that may fall upon our industry ever gain. Those that ignore history tend to repeat it – so I will make sure that we are ready and positioned to overcome any future challenges that we may encountered.

In order to embrace the bright future that we have in store, we must first survive the battle before us. We are getting crafty, innovative and in some ways unorthodox in our quest for survival because we absolutely need to ensure that there is a strong company to come back to. Our goal right now, like many of you, is to take it a day at a time. Confucius said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, and similarly we realize that we will win this fight one hour at a time, one day at a time, and one week at a time. Our short-term planning is
‘today’ and our long-term planning is ‘next week’. Step by step, day by day, and we will eventually get to the other side of the crisis.

This global pandemic has made me work harder than I ever have in my entire life to ensure that this business survives – which I’m 1000% confident it will – but more than anything it has taught me something profound. It has taught me that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come – and that a single spark, a single idea, can take the world by storm. It is my genuine belief that something that we do – that the Carmen’s Group does – will take our industry and the world by storm and will be such a force for good that it cannot be ignored. Our company logo, as you all know, is of a Rising Phoenix, and just like a phoenix, both this company and this planet will rise again in a beautiful, powerful and impactful way.

In my heart of hearts, I know that our best days are ahead of us – but I also know that we will only appreciate them if we make tough sacrifices and endure a difficult patch in our own story, and then rise again with strength, with pride and with ferocity in pursuit of our dreams. Every Goliath needs a David, every crisis needs a hero. As mother always said, “This too shall pass”, and when it does, we will fully be able to acknowledge that “faith overcomes fear”. Humanity will prevail, and we will get through this just like how our ancestors before us did with their gut-wrenching battles that ultimately paved the way for our success.

Carmen’s Group, the next chapter in our story has just begun. The page has turned. As the great Bruce Springsteen once said, “Come on up for the Rising. Come on up for the Rising Tonight”. While the immediate road ahead will not be easy, we are well positioned to win the battle before us. Thank you for giving me hope and inspiration. Let’s ride together … and then let’s Rise Together. We’ve got this!

Forever Yours in Hospitality,

P.J. Mercanti

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