Fresno State students help revive local restaurant

FRESNO, Calif.

For their final project, the Quantity Food Production class at Fresno State decided to take over a struggling business and re-vamp it. Similar to the popular show, "Restaurant Impossible", they changed everything from the menu to its decor.

The festive mood inside Smir's Shish Kebob restaurant Friday night is something its owner hasn't seen in years.

"When the economy was good. Business was good, but the last two years, it's been hard," said owner Amir Nemat.

Nemat had only been serving a few tables per day. But a recent visit by Fresno State's Director Of Culinology will hopefully change all that.

Dr. Klaus Tenbergen said he liked the food, but couldn't help notice the empty tables. That's when he came up with the idea to have his students transform the restaurant into a successful business.

"I gave them very little guidelines, and I gave them ownership of this project, and I made them aware it's do or die. If we don't do it, the restaurant will die," said Dr. Tenbergen.

Starting in October, his class of 35 students got to work. Inside they reorganized storage space and added pictures to the walls. "It was blank, he had little decorations, they were Italian decorations -- stuff that didn't go with the decor for Armenian or Mediterranean food at all," said student Josie Piercey.

They also revamped the entire menu--complete with a new logo. Finally, they advertised using word of mouth, and social networking. "We have a Facebook page. We have Photobucket, we're sending out flyers, postcards, anything we can do to help Amir and his restaurant get some traffic around here," said student Denise Reyes.

Action News: "Are you optimistic this renovation will work?"

Amir Nemat: "Yes, I am very hopeful to 2012, the economy is turning around, people are in a good mood, and I think we're going to have a good year coming up."

Amir's Shish Kebob is located inside the Pavilion West Shopping Center on the corner of Bullard and West. This project has generated a lot of local interest. In fact, a restaurant located in Downtown Fresno has called the professor asking if he too, can help them.

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