Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby electricron » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:53 am

SouthernRailway wrote:If one flight attendant can serve a very good multi-course dinner in first class on American Airlines, I am not seeing why Amtrak can't offer the same, whether in the cafe car or dining car, with a similar staffing level.

How many first class passengers are there on an American Airlines jet liner?
MD-80 = 8
737 = 16
757 = 24
767 = 28
777 = 45
787 = 28
I’m sure a single flight attendant could serve 28 or so first class passengers fairly well.
FYI, per 14 CFR Part § 121.391 the FAA requires the following number of flight attendants;
Less than 51 = 1
More than 50 and less than 101 = 2
More than 100 = 1 for every 50 plus 1.
Therefore,
25 passengers requires 1 FA, 75 passengers requires 2 FA, 125 passengers requires 3 FA, 175 passengers requires 4 FA, 225 passengers requires 5 FA, etc.

Are there 5 food servers on an Amtrak train with 200 - 249 passengers? All Acela trains have 304 seats. The FAA would require 7 FA to handle that many passengers. Do you really believe Amtrak could serve pre-cooked but freshly heated dinners to all 304 passengers with just one food service attendant and a couple of assistant conductors? The Acela car with the largest capacity has 65 seats. The FAA would require two attendants on that type of car alone. I have never seen that many assistant conductors assigned to any one car, or even one assistant conductor or porter to every car on a train.

What works on jet liners will only work on trains if you allocate as many people to do the job. Since trains don’t and probably never will, trains should look at implementing their own solution. But whatever solution they arrive at, it’s important to have enough people aboard the train to implement it.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby SouthernRailway » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:38 pm

Not all passengers on a train will want dinner in the diner. Don't sleeping car and maybe a few coach customers only use the diner?

I think that one Amtrak attendant could handle each seating of maybe 25 passengers--so maybe 3 seatings per meal would suffice, with just one attendant.

To make this work, there would need to be less selection of menu items (there would be perhaps 3 types of pre-plated meals, without much modification); I'm fine with that on American Airlines and would thus be fine with it on Amtrak.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby OrangeGrove » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:39 pm

gokeefe wrote:Worth remembering ... The convection ovens are a built in feature of the Amfleet I cafe cars. You could easily replicate the full menu from the "Downeaster Cafe" anywhere else those cars run.


The Amfleet II lounge cars, all with the "diner lite" rebuild, also have convection ovens, which means there is even less excuse for the largely "snack counter" food service found on the Silver Star. Were it utilized to greater potential, it would also provide opportunities for enhanced dining options outside of meal times and to more coach passengers.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby OrangeGrove » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:57 pm

Arlington wrote:Airlines do have the advantage of limited menu and they get to set the mealtimes--they tell you when they are ready to offer food rather than you walking in and having the choice to order. I think the airline system is a good system, particularly delivery to the passenger's seat.


A limited menu and rigidly specified meal times is exactly what you don't want to see aboard a passenger train. While there are obviously similarities and some lessons to possibly be learned from each, food service aboard plane and train are very different markets, each with differing requirements, customer desires and expectations, and even purpose; A light-meal (reheated limited menu, etc.) which is completely appropriate for a two-hour flight is just as completely inadequate and undesirable for an all-day or overnight rail journey. Further, as already pointed out, passenger rail's strength lies in intermediate destinations - Whatever point you chose to serve, it leaves out everyone boarding later.

While there are some applications for food & beverage service at the passengers' seat, at the same time this is one of the very worst ways to offer meal service. One of the greatest advantages of rail over other travel modes is the ability to get up and move around and not be prisoner to that seat. Exactly how is it a good thing to dissuade people from such opportunity? Besides, you want people to come to the lounge and dining cars - maybe you can then sell them something more than just the coke and chips they ordered.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby BandA » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:17 pm

Trains have less of a penalty for weight or storage volume. Diner attendant costs for the railroads are probably the same or more than the airlines. Commissaries are probably less efficiently located for the railroads than the airlines, and probably suffer from lower volumes than the airlines.

So, what to do? Have specialized kitchen equipment on board the dining car, but it has to be super easy to use, and by someone who is New. Stock a wide variety of "SKU"s as long as they are non-perishable - so lots of drink choices, condiments, frozen entrees. Limited selection of perishables, but make them the freshest and highest-quality. Use good quality ingredients throughout.

The commissaries should have side-businesses to spread their costs such as a quick-service restaurant, home-delivery with internet ordering or catering. Have one company operate all the commissaries for a region. Is this pie-in-the-sky? I don't know, but pie is delicious.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:39 pm

You guys are all making it way too complicated. This is the answer:

Engine.jpg


How many hamburgers can fit on a GE 7FDL16 engine?
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TAN: Cafe Discussion

Postby JimBoylan » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:31 pm

Long ago, Amtrak announced that they were going to replace one of the 2 microwave ovens in their Café cars with a Convection oven, so that more appealing toasted foods could be produced. Was this change ever completed?
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:14 pm

The best snacks I've had in the Amfleet cafes were the ones using the regular ovens that were (still are?) in there.

A toasted bun with meatballs heated in the microwave was awesome. It really took what was normally an average sandwich when nuked and made it FAR better.

And back when they had the awesome oversized chocolate chip cookies and an attendant heated one up in the oven, it was incredibly good.

Well worth it and should be used more often.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby Tadman » Thu Jan 11, 2018 11:08 pm

Let me fill yall in on a secret.

Go to the cafe and order the buffalo chicken nuggets and also the cheese and crackers in a tray. Neither appear that amazing on their own.

Once the nuggets have been cooked to Apollo 13-level heat, take it all back to your seat or a table. Break off little piece of cheese and top each cracker. Then break off little piece of buffalo nugget and put them on top of each cheese-cracker assembly. It's like a lunchable but better.

You're welcome.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:11 pm

Greg Moore wrote:The best snacks I've had in the Amfleet cafes were the ones using the regular ovens that were (still are?) in there.


At least on the Amfleet cafe cars we get in Maine they are in fact still there. Our NexDine friends in the "Downeaster Cafe" have become quite creative with them over the years.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:12 pm

gokeefe wrote:
Greg Moore wrote:The best snacks I've had in the Amfleet cafes were the ones using the regular ovens that were (still are?) in there.


At least on the Amfleet cafe cars we get in Maine they are in fact still there. Our NexDine friends in the "Downeaster Cafe" have become quite creative with them over the years.


I've heard mixed answers about them on the NEC (and other trains) I've been on.
I've been told, "they slow things down to much" and "they're not allowed to use them due to risk of fire" and other reasons.

So I'm not 100% confident why they're not used. In 100s of trips, I think I've seen them used twice.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby STrRedWolf » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:01 pm

Greg Moore wrote:I've heard mixed answers about them on the NEC (and other trains) I've been on.
I've been told, "they slow things down to much" and "they're not allowed to use them due to risk of fire" and other reasons.

So I'm not 100% confident why they're not used. In 100s of trips, I think I've seen them used twice.


DC to NYC is 3 hours, with DC, Philly, and NYC being major food hubs and transfer hubs to other trains. Plus, how long does the diner take to cook, serve, and allow you to eat a meal? For a NEC train that makes numerous trips per day?

Snack car service, where you can get a limited selection nuked in case you're going from minor to minor station and not getting off at those three, makes more sense than a full diner (which probably was added in place of a broken-down snack car).

For the Pennsylvanian, it's a toss-up. It's upwards of 8 hours long trip NYC to Pittsburgh... but it's in daytime hours... but there's no food mall at Pittsburgh lest you bring it on board, or else face whatever coffee is on hand and a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich or some pastry when you leave Pittsburgh to get back to NYC (or transfer at Philly).
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:38 pm

Huh? I think you're misunderstanding what we're were talking about specifically here; just the use of the actual ovens in the current cafe cars to heat up things (or toast buns for something like the sandwiches) vs. the microwave. No one is suggesting a full diner on the NEC trains.
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby NS VIA FAN » Tue Jan 16, 2018 4:52 am

The Renaissance Diners on VIA’s Ocean have convection ovens. Meals for the westbound train are prepared in the Westin Hotel which is adjacent to the Halifax Station…..then heated and plated on board. During the summer there can be 10 sleepers and meals are included in the fare. That’s a lot of meals to serve and I’ve never had to wait any great length of time for it to be ‘reheated’. By the time I finish my soup….the main course is arriving. Here’s some convection oven ‘reheats’ and very good!.....
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Re: Diner Discussion

Postby NS VIA FAN » Tue Jan 16, 2018 4:54 am

A 'reheated' breakfast leaving Sainte-Foy (Quebec City)......but pretty had to tell!
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