Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby Matt Johnson » Tue Nov 13, 2018 12:22 pm

DutchRailnut wrote:(4) provide food and beverage services on its trains only if revenues from the services each year at least equal the cost of providing the services;



Thanks to this guy. Maybe with a Democratic House there's some hope for improvement, or maybe it's time for Amtrak to grease some palms.

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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 13, 2018 2:10 pm

Neither Amtrak nor entities associated with Amtrak can legally lobby (or grease palms), so best get your NARP (what is it now, RPA?) folks to open their wallets. Maybe they can bribe Congress with Lionels and slide collections :P

And this budget cycle, once it’s through committee there won’t be any quibbling about what’s in the budget. The problem will be to get the budget through both houses, and then to the President when he is in a good mood.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby Hamhock » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:13 am

Well, perhaps the cost of the *service* of the food and beverages does get covered by the revenue. It's just the cost of the food/beverage product itself that doesn't :wink:
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby DutchRailnut » Wed Nov 14, 2018 11:40 am

It is tough to cover cost and you have to sell a lot of food per day to cover :
food service employees
food Service Employee benefits
write off on on a 4 million $$ Diner .
extra associated cost for car like E cleaning and US food admin inspections etc etc

the food would really be expensive if all those cost would need to be met.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Nov 14, 2018 1:59 pm

You could probably move the depreciation cost into another category if you got creative enough, because that will happen regardless of if the cars are serving food, are unstaffed lounges, or are basking at Hialeah. Also, food inspector costs themselves are low, it’s the food waste & shrink you have to be cautious about.

Rough back-of-napkin, let’s say Amtrak grosses $3000 per active dining car per trip (150 meals at $20.) Spread over three routes (Lake Shore, Crescent, Silver Meatier) with one departure/day/direction, and over 365 days/year, you’re at $6.57M. That’s supposed to cover expenses for the entire 26-diner fleet, at about $252K/year per car. If you’re only using 12 cars daily (for food service, presumably the axle count cars are paid for from a different fund) you can increase that to probably $500K yearly, which I’m guessing comes close to covering one crew member and food per active dining car-year. Still not enough to fully cover a two-person crew though.

How to fix that? Sell high-margin stuff (an after-dark Viewliner Nightclub and an early morning/midday Viewliner Coffeeshop.) Reduce personnel costs (but how, without Union-busting which I will not endorse.) Sell made-to-order food throughout the day rather than solely at appointed meal times. Or, stop running a Diner altogether until you can file it under a different ops category.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby DutchRailnut » Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:12 pm

Correct the cost of US FDA inspections is free , but these inspectors do not show up at convenient times so Diners will get shopped for non compliance and will need to be switched out sometimes very late in schedule, the logistics of a move like that require both cars to be puut in location so stores can be transfered etc.
your only justifying 2 employees per car but how many employees are used in yards for these cars , cleaning, supplying car signing of on supplies , yard storage of supplies etc
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby east point » Wed Nov 14, 2018 2:51 pm

If Amtrak is using the previously posted 4.00 peer mile operating costs of a rail car then more utilization of the cars are needed. The Sunset experiment of 24 hour service in a diner might need looking into again. That would probably require at least 2 more persons assigned but also some way to cater the diners enroute for necessary supplies and food ?


The only item is quit serving when train is :45 revised time at end of route and vacate 15 minutes before.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby Greg Moore » Wed Nov 14, 2018 3:06 pm

I would hope they could do more than 150 meals per trip. Quite seriously, I think that's part of the problem.
If you assume, breakfast, lunch and dinner (certainly possible on the Crescent, I think LSL might only get 2 meals in though) that's 50 meals per service. That's one complete seating of all tables. (roughly).

What the dining cars need (heck ANY business) is more turn-over. It's one reason (among others) I think the idea of the current usage of the dining car on the LSL is ridiculous. You've cut off the largest number of customers by saying they have no chance of dining in there.

And I've been on trips on the Crescent where there's been NO announcement to the coach passengers that there is a diner and I've gone down to find it 1/2 full. The dining car has to be made more obvious and easier to use for coach passengers.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby Matt Johnson » Wed Nov 14, 2018 4:51 pm

So, I'm currently sitting in the Viewliner dining car on the Lake Shore Limited (booked a roomette to Albany for a joyride), and the English mother and daughter in the roomette across from me are traveling to San Francisco having just spent three days in New York. They arrived on the Queen Mary 2, so I assume they're used to first class accomodations! But they just complained about something regarding the food service, and the attendant told them to write or call an 800 number that I guess he gave them, and commented that it's a lot different than it used to be. As for me, drinking a Stella and waiting for my beef short rib, so not much else to report. The car is nice though!

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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby mtuandrew » Wed Nov 14, 2018 9:03 pm

They *could* do more business but I suspect they *don’t*. Part of that is lack of customer awareness, part is high prices, and part is perceived low quality or poor selection, among other factors. My theory is, a diner will never serve more than half the train due to turnover & pricing, and probably more like 1/3 at best. Of them, I’ll arbitrarily say they eat an average of 2 meals per person, so I’ll cap the maximum meals needed at (say) 400 per trip. I’m sure the diner can cook 400 meals; can it push 400 meals out the door and into the hands of patrons?

This is all specific to Viewliner Diners, since Superliner Diners seem to escape a lot of these problems.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby Matt Johnson » Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:31 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0NNt3w8m8c

At the end of this clip, you can hear an attendant saying just call this number. That was in response to the two nice, I assume affluent (being that they arrived in New York on the Queen Mary 2) English women who were so dissatisfied with the food service that they sent it back, asked if they could order something else, were told sorry but there's only enough to have one item per passenger, and then asked where they could complain.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby electricron » Thu Nov 15, 2018 4:42 pm

Greg Moore wrote:I would hope they could do more than 150 meals per trip. Quite seriously, I think that's part of the problem.
If you assume, breakfast, lunch and dinner (certainly possible on the Crescent, I think LSL might only get 2 meals in though) that's 50 meals per service. That's one complete seating of all tables. (roughly).

What the dining cars need (heck ANY business) is more turn-over. It's one reason (among others) I think the idea of the current usage of the dining car on the LSL is ridiculous. You've cut off the largest number of customers by saying they have no chance of dining in there.

And I've been on trips on the Crescent where there's been NO announcement to the coach passengers that there is a diner and I've gone down to find it 1/2 full. The dining car has to be made more obvious and easier to use for coach passengers.

These single level diner cars may have 10 to 12 tables capable of seating 40-48 diners at once, but they do not have an attendant (waiter/waitress) for every table. The attendants sit one or two tables at a time, followed by another table or two 10-15 minutes later. So it takes at least an hour or so to sit diners at every table, which afterwards allows them to clean and set that table again for the next scheduled sitting. Of course the diner will look half full most of the time - just by the way the tables are reserved.
Golly, few passengers like standing at the door waiting for a table to be set for them to sit because the previous sitting takes too long to eat, or the attendant is too busy with other tables to clean and reset your table. It is a delicate balancing act to time the sittings to eliminate waits at the door.
To maximize usage of the diner, you’re going to need more attendants and cooks working in the diner, while has very limited space to start with. Or Amtrak will have to look at providing an entirely different kind of food service, which is what they are doing.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby ThirdRail7 » Thu Nov 15, 2018 6:47 pm

jp1822 wrote:
Matt Johnson wrote:
dgvrengineer wrote:Anyone heard anything about more car releases from CAF? Hopefully they will get out some more baggage-dorms and maybe a sleeper or two soon.


Nope, but I've seen recent photos of the prototype Viewliner diner 8400 being used along with old Heritage cars to meet axle count requirements in Illinois. Sickening.


This can be repeated on other routes too and would only bring more revenue in without burdening any cost - or no more cost than currently running it EMPTY to fill an axle requirement. Stupidest assignment for this car I've ever heard of. Brand new multi-million dollar state of the art passenger car rolling back and forth to fulfill an axle requirement and not open to anyone.

And then Amtrak will complain that the "frame" is cracked or the car has excessive wear and tear and will need to be retired. To do this especially with the rebuilt prototype diner - wreckless.


jp1822 wrote:Amtrak makes a HUGE investment in brand new Viewliner Diners (great viewing car etc.) only to see 11 in regular service and the rest either PARKED or being dragged around the Midwest to meet axle requirements for a given train? How much are they charging to dead-head it for axle requirement? Not trying to push to the states for a fee - stick it on a long distance day-train paired with a business car to try and get increased revenue. Do SOMETHING with these cars that are truly great, but nearly half the fleet is SITTING. I don't see Amtrak putting them on the Cardinal or Silver Star any time soon IMHO. And even at that, it's only an additional 6 Diners required. Amtrak's not in the mode of adding onboard dining staff, but rather subtracting and replacing with box meals. Don't even need a diner to that quite frankly! So even with 25 Viewliner diners delivered, plus Indianapolis (26 total), 17 would only be used in current single level LD service. And to serve boxed meals...........That's a reserve of over 30%, more than Amtrak requires. Diners as delivered is NOT how Amtrak plans to use them, plain and simple. What else can they be used for rather than totally re-doing the cars into cafe/lounges for more money? One suggestion proposed that wouldn't add any staff and perhaps enhance a service class/revenue.

Maybe things will change in the future, but WHAT can be done now on a simple level and serve passengers, not empty space just for axle requirement.



I know I'm late to the party and this thread was broken off from another, but I sincerely hope you're basing all of this on the fact they have not reassigned dining cars to the Star or Cardinal and not on the fact that someone saw 1 prototype, the 8400 being used as an axle count car.

I don't recall ANY other diner being in axle count service and the 8400 is "probably there" because there was a "problem" not worth fixing in the interior so instead of it sitting there, collecting rust, they are putting to use since the air brake inspections haven't run their length...like they have on a lot of the heritage bags.

Additionally, if you recall some of the earlier cars still had some mods which is why they started coming out of order. As such, when the later cars were put into service, the lower numbers cars came off line so they could receive their mods.

So, I'm not sure where you're getting all of this "sitting dining" cars conversation from....unless you are counting the protects that were assigned during the NYP track work projects.

As of now, no one has mentioned killing the dining car on the other trains....as of now... and if they do, perhaps you will see more of the sleeping lounge/contemporary service on the eastern trains. If not, they can use them as replacements for the cafes, which they can convert to much needed coaches for the eastern fleet.

There is plenty of work for these cars without providing additional, uneven service to one group while leaving another out.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby jp1822 » Sat Nov 17, 2018 8:49 pm

Hmmmm. Little more complicated than that......

Let’s just say this thread has morphed more into what can a usage be of 13 Viewliner II Diners now delivered, and 1 Viewliner Diner prototype (yes, still needs an interior retrofit as far as I know but minor overall; all other retrofits done from my sources) knowing that they will likely not be used as ordered (e.g. being used on the Meteor and Crescent)? Crescent and Meteor are likely on borrowed time for all we know. But only 11 Viewliner II Diners needed for total assignment between LSL, Meteor, and Crescent. Viewliner II Diner Albany still with CAF.

Amtrak’s not moving any too fast to put a VIewliner II Diner (Sleeper Lounge) on the Cardinal or Silver Star......

They surely don’t need this many in reserve..........

Besides Hialeah for storage, what can Amtrak do with the Viewliner II Diners? Suggesting a re-engineering (into cafe, lounge, diner) is easier said than done after these cars JUST finally arrived. That’s all been hashed above too. Doing so before the RFI likely is not wise either.

ANd more than just 8400 was seen as axle count cars.
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Re: Usage of new diners - split from v2 thread

Postby hs3730 » Sat Nov 17, 2018 10:10 pm

Just rode the LSL - the "Contemporary Dining" actually isn't as horrible as I thought. There were a few pros, mainly:
* Sit whenever / wherever you want
* Food is ready quickly (even the one hot meal)
* One Free beer
* No coach passengers - I'd like to imagine this is a bit of what the Pacific Parlour car was like
* the lone LSA was more accessible and attentive than any staff member in the traditional diner (probably thanks to the ability for customers to arrive at odd hours and get their food - less people in there at once)
* For the LSL specifically, the power off/combine at ALB would really screw up dinner, plus all the Bostonians going in at the first sitting after the join. This change has brought order to that chaos.

There's a few improvements they desperately need, though:
* Hot breakfast (even if it's microwaved bacon / sausage / eggs)
* A second hot lunch/dinner option (a chicken or fish entree)
* Pictures of the food on the menu - yes it seems dumb but it would reduce the instances of patrons unhappy with what they got. The text descriptions are hard to follow word salad likely because they're trying to make it sound better than it actually is.

As for what to do with the excess dining cars, they should try contemporary dining-ize the Star (with improvements) and restore the sleeper fares to their previous levels to see if they can still fill them.
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