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].”


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