Long Wait at MBJ Cafeteria

By: Dahiana De La Cruz

Imagine having an hour and a half break in between classes and needing to buy lunch. Approaching a long line is unpleasant, especially having limited time. Although John Jay College of Criminal Justice is a large campus, one of the most crowded buildings is the New Building. During community hour, MBJ cafeteria is the “go to” spot for lunch or a small snack. Students have expressed how exhausting it is to wait such a long time to get food.

Ashely Espinal, a criminology student said, “It’s ridiculous. I have about an hour, and I have to wait thirty minutes to order and pay for my food.”

Some students say they wait up to twenty to thirty minutes to get their food and pay for it. However, what exactly is the cause of the long wait? There are several stations at the cafeteria: salad bar, sandwich bar and a pizza bar. On a daily basis, each station is managed by two to three employees from MBJ. The line may consist of fifteen to twenty students at each station, and then there is a separate line to pay. Some students don’t mind the wait, others become desperate and eventually leave.

The lack of employees is the main concern. Overall, in John Jay College there have been budget cuts within programs and for professors; however, that is not the issue. The issue is the fact that community hour is the only gap in which all students are out of class.

The majority of classes are taught in the New Building and the MBJ cafeteria is the one used the most. Aside from the MBJ cafeteria within the New Building, there is a Starbucks on the first floor, a smoothie bar on L2 and Lil’ Jay cafe on L3. All cafes are less occupied and employ the same amount of staff as the MBJ cafeteria.

Aldana M. Vasques, Director of Catering and Special Events of MBJ Services at John Jay College of Criminal Justice said, “A few employees is not the issue. The situation is the structure of the dining hall for students to get in. Three stations are next to each other, the salad bar, pizza bar and sandwich bar, and all lines mesh into each other.

“There are two to three employees at each station during community hour,” Vasques added. “Adding more employees will not help because students will not be able to get to the front of the line.”

Community hour consists of one hour, John Jay College has 15,000 students overall and many of them go to MBJ cafeteria to eat.

Vanessa Rodriguez, a Forensic Psychology student said, “I’m used to the long waits. Would be nice if the wait was shorter or even if a new cafeteria was open at another building.”

When MBJ initiated their services within CUNY, John Jay was the first college to obtain services from them. MBJ was founded by three men, Mike, Johnny and Burt, who started the company and have expanded their services, offering cafeterias and catering for CUNY and private events.

Many students, such as Stanley Castillo, have transferred to John Jay from LaGuardia Community College. Castillo said, “All cafeterias at LaGuardia are managed by MBJ, and the expected wait time at LaGuardia was never as long as it is here at John Jay.”

Allowing students to pay at the station for their food, rather than paying separately, would be much easier, but there is an issue with that as well.
“That sounds great in theory; it would, in some capacity, make a lot of sense,” Vasques said. “But if there is a line to order, imagine what the line will be like to order and pay at the same station.”

The structure of the dining hall limits MBJ on the possible layout options. “We need internet and electricity for the registers,” said Vasques. “Where the registers are located is the only place where we can get internet access and electricity for the registers to function.”

Space is another issue interfering with how MBJ cafeteria can function. Overall, the cafeteria is cramped and there is only so much for students to do. It’s an inconvenience for students to move while on line to make space for others to get through.

Other cafes throughout the New Building are not as crowded; however, they do not offer what the MBJ cafeteria on the second floor has to offer. Other cafeterias, such as Lil’ Jay cafe are limited to what they can serve.

Vasques explains, “There are several reasons space is limited at Lil’ Jay cafe, there is not enough space for a salad bar, pizza bar. Also, the New York City Department of Health requires certain equipments, a full kitchen. For example, some coffee shops in Manhattan wish to offer food, but they cannot due to space. Surroundings constrain them.”

Some may think the issue is the lack of employees, but there is more to the issue than just the employees.