In January, Il Panino Cafe and Grill in Jamaica Plain was on the brink of failure. Now, thanks to the help of a few Northeastern University students and the owner’s childhood friend, the neighborhood restaurant is on its way to rebounding.
“When I talk about what they did for me, I am in tears. They saved me from possible bankruptcy,” said Themistocles “Lakis” Vlahoulis, owner of Il Panino Cafe and Grill on Centre Street. “The growth from January to today has been phenomenal. We have tripled our business.”
Last spring, Northeastern University student Michael Berkhofer joined the Il Panino team as a consultant – a project for his class, Small Business Management and Growth.
Over the course of the semester, Berkhofer was part of a team of students who consulted with Il Panino and created a website for the restaurant. For Berkhofer, who found himself drawn to Vlahoulis’ business struggles, the work went beyond getting a grade.
“It’s not just a project where you write the paper and submit it,” he said. “You get to see the fruits of your labor. You get to see what works and what doesn’t. The grade takes care of itself,” said the senior finance and entrepreneurship major.
Berkhofer’s professor at Northeastern, Kimberly Eddleston, said Berkhofer and his classmates “took it above and beyond. These students who did not know how to create a website went out and learned for Lakis [Vlahoulis].”