Cameron Pollack // Sun Photography Editor

Temple of Zeus had to increase prices to accommodate a state-wide increase in minimum wage.

February 4, 2018

After Minimum Wage Increases, Temple of Zeus Raises Prices

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Temple of Zeus, a popular on-campus cafe, has increased some of its prices by roughly a quarter after New York State raised the minimum wage.

The items affected include coffee, soup and some snacks, according to Keith Mercovich, the Temple of Zeus manager.

Alejandro Parra, a Zeus staff member, explained that this change went into effect after the New York minimum wage went up to $10.40 beginning Dec. 31, 2017.

Consequently, employees at Temple of Zeus benefited from a pay raise. However, though the new policy is advantageous for the staff, there will be an undesirable effect on consumers.

“Almost all the changes were about 23 cents,” Mercovich said. “A few items went up 27 cents, or a penny up or down from that to keep the totals even with tax.”

Simran Mahanta ’21, who visits the cafe about once a week, said, “It’s annoying that the drinks are so expensive. [Many people have] meal swipes, but if you want coffee, you have to be willing to pay around five bucks.” The cost of living can be a difficult for the average university student who, according to Cornell’s Financial Aid Office, is already paying an approximate $5,766 annually for dining alone.

Julia Greenberg ’18, a Zeus student employee, also said that there will be an effect for the “people who come in and get multiple cups of coffee a day.”

Parra anticipates that regulars will notice the impact, but for the most part, the increase will not alter students’ spending habits.

Zeus is a trendy location, often teeming with people because of its central location, Mahanta said.

One of the great things about Zeus, according to Mercovich, is that “by design, [it] only breaks even, and this is after being already supported by the university.”

In other words, the cafe strives to provide fair wages and quality food for Cornell students without actually turning a profit itself.

“The mission is to serve the community,” said Mercovich, and “money is just a means to choose what we care about. Zeus offers fair livable compensation to all its workers and I love that.”

However, future price increases remain a possibility. If the cost of ingredients or the minimum wage goes up, so will prices at Zeus, according to Mercovich.

Students say that despite this possibility, it is nearly impossible to significantly adjust their spending patterns because dining options in Ithaca are so limited.

“Things are generally overpriced,” Aleena Ismail ’21 said, “[So] I don’t always have a choice to spend money or not.”

Despite high campus expenses, neither Ismail or Mahanta are upset by Zeus’ prices, nor are they less likely to come to the cafe.

“I think it’s good,” Mahanta said. “Imagine one of us working here. We would want the extra quarter, or whatever it is.”

Ismail added, “I would much rather have the increase be for something good … The difference between $8.50 and $8.75 is not that much for the good it’s going to do.”