Of the many people in Boylan Hall’s dining area at any given time, few are consuming food from the cafe itself, as students say they consider bringing food from home, getting outside food in the surrounding neighborhoods or not eating lunch at all, as better alternatives to the dining services.
The Metropolitan Cafe has inhabited a space in the basement of Brooklyn College’s Boylan Hall for somewhere between 18 and 20 years, facing the competition of new bidders every five years when it comes time to renew the contract. The service has remained at the college through several turnovers of ownership and one recent closure due to failure to meet sanitary standards. Yet the cafe enjoys a less-than-superb reputation among students, and its low ratings on Google and Yelp speak for this.
A disparity between the food’s quality and price is commonly expressed, especially compared to off-campus options.
“I can get better food for a few dollars right by the bus stop,” remarked one student named Moe. “I might consider the cafe if the price of a meal stayed around $5.”
Students also expressed concerns over the cafeteria’s sanitary conditions, likely stemming from last semester’s temporary closure by the Department of Health for unsanitary conditions. Though the situation is now largely resolved, it seems to have created a lasting distrust among students, compounded by the perceived high price per meal.
The cafe’s owner, Joe Gallopini, acknowledges the situation. “Our biggest competition…,” he said, “…is right outside that gate. We do our best to keep our prices as low as possible in order to compete.”
Prices are submitted to the college’s vice president of Finance for review several months in advance of each semester, calculated principally on the cost of ingredients and labor. This semester has seen a significant price increase due to the recent $2 increase in New York City’s minimum wage.
According to Gallopini, the organization tries its best to spread price increases across the menu rather than creating large, localized price increases. Each item, then, may become five cents more expensive per semester, rather than certain items becoming 50 cents to a dollar more expensive.
The service is open to student input, according to Gallopini, and a conference with the student union several years ago successfully resolved a pricing issue to make the service more competitive with Flatbush businesses. “We now have a very good price on pizza,” Gallopini said.
Concerned students can find Joe Gallopini’s contact information on the Brooklyn College website under the Food Services section.