Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

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

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, gprimr1, Amtrak67 of America, Tadman

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby jp1822 » Sat Sep 22, 2018 12:43 am

mtuandrew wrote:Food service has lousy margins, lousier when on a moving train with Unionized employees, but prepared beverages like espresso drinks, blended stuff, and alcohol can make up a lot of the difference. Also, microwave-convection ovens are a wonderful labor-saving device that will perfectly heat parcooked/sous vide items like a sandwich, bowl of soup, side of veggies, or even a steak, breast, or chop. Amtrak is overthinking its meal offerings something fierce, and ignoring choices that would be really popular.


Food in general typically has descent margins; its "plating" and serving it that drives the margins down.

Absolutely correct on beverages. Alcoholic mixed drinks, beer, and coffee/tea varieties have great margins and this DID makeup a lot of the loss from general food service. Not that I am trying to promote alcohol, but fact remains it's a small portion overall of Amtrak's current sales when compared to other players in travel/service organization. Rocky and VIA both keep the bar tab! VIA rail capitalizes the best on this within their Park Dome Car - days and night! It's the party place to be in the off-season! I think the same could be said back in the day on any private railroad's "lounge car." They needed and wanted the bar tab to make the profit. It's VIA's Ocean train that really has the best of both worlds - no chefs, prepared food is loaded on so it can be re-heated only in the adjacent Service Cars (the Westin Nova Scotian next to the Halifax Train Station works out REALLY well), the diner is all decked out with linens and china to offer some ambiance, and alcohol/mixed drinks flow very regularly from the Service Cars and Park Car. Amtrak can't compare. I am willing to bet VIA's doing better with total F&B net income/loss on the Ocean than any LD Amtrak train.

Food and Beverage is also a hot commodity right now for the experiential travel experience. The train has a changing landscape as an advantage.

I've done the Empire Builder and its late arrival into Chicago MANY times. Sometimes the lateness is added or compounded between Milwaukee and Chicago. If the Empire Builder will get in before 9 pm at night, they will not serve dinner and most of the time the food courts at Chicago Union Station are closed by then. Saturday or Sunday - forget it!!! And then board the Lake Shore and the line in the cafe till it closes is usually ridiculous. This has been a problem for decades!!! The staff is already onboard, as is the food, why not try to serve it leaving Chicago and even inbound to NYC eastbound when the LSL is running late! Dinner along the Hudson? Yes, you can grab a better dinner in NYC perhaps, but here too - connecting passengers often lose out.

If Amtrak is to continue with F&B service on long distance trains, an overhaul is needed from loading the food, the offering of food, preparation and staff, paying for the food, inventory control, and the technology used (or lack thereof) in the whole process. Try to gain efficiencies and get the sale; often this requires more flexibility than the rigidness that Amtrak currently exhibits. Often times it's one large lunch seating with limited options for those arriving into Chicago on the EB or the Bay Area on the CZ and the trains have the greatest number of people onboard at this point. Lost sales.......
jp1822
 
Posts: 3770
Joined: Sun Apr 18, 2004 10:03 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Sep 22, 2018 8:17 am

It’s a bit of a shame that Amtrak partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. They make a decent cup (especially Dunkin’ Dark) and that’s totally fine for coffee drinkers, but their food & beverage products aren’t seen as up-market as Starbucks or Peet’s. For instance, Dunkin’ charges $1 for essentially the same old-fashioned donut that retails for $2 at Starbucks, $2 for the same iced coffee that sells for $3.50, and $4 for a frappe that costs $6 at Starbucks. Good for the consumer, but bad for Amtrak’s margins. Same thing for beer - I’d rather have a regional beer and pay twice as much as for a Michelob.

Also, DD espresso is trash :P
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Sat Sep 22, 2018 11:07 am

mtuandrew wrote:It’s a bit of a shame that Amtrak partnered with Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee. They make a decent cup (especially Dunkin’ Dark) and that’s totally fine for coffee drinkers, but their food & beverage products aren’t seen as up-market as Starbucks or Peet’s. For instance, Dunkin’ charges $1 for essentially the same old-fashioned donut that retails for $2 at Starbucks, $2 for the same iced coffee that sells for $3.50, and $4 for a frappe that costs $6 at Starbucks. Good for the consumer, but bad for Amtrak’s margins. Same thing for beer - I’d rather have a regional beer and pay twice as much as for a Michelob.

Also, DD espresso is trash :P


I know they have Dunkin Donuts coffee, which I like, but didn't know they had any of their pastries. Do they?
bostontrainguy
 
Posts: 1335
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:14 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Sat Sep 22, 2018 5:35 pm

bostontrainguy wrote:I know they have Dunkin Donuts coffee, which I like, but didn't know they had any of their pastries. Do they?

Now that you mention it, I don’t think they do, but I haven’t ridden in a while. They’re still missing out on higher-margin stuff though!
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby dumpster.penguin » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:14 pm

On a recent Capitol Ltd round trip - my first experience with the boxed meals - I overheard a couple of passengers effusively praise the new boxed dinner. On the other hand, other passengers glumly left certain courses for the trash. Announcements reminded coach passengers they must no longer enter the diner.

Altogether, the strategy seems three-pronged. First, pare the hot-meal constituency down to an elite. Ostracized coach and non-omnivore sleeper travelers will not defend meal service they're locked out of from attack by Congress. Second, weaken the constituency. Offend liberals (no community), tree-huggers (so much visible waste of packaging and food), taxpayers (idle union-labor employee prominently posted to supervise the non-diner diner). Third, transform the service to something that can be described crisply in glowing terms and, yet, whose elimination will seem like progress. Imagine: "Only __% of guests partook of the modern, cuisine-quality, chef-conceived meals. Many travelers have told us they prefer to pack their own picnics. Ending the under-utilized meal service will save 40 million hectares of bamboo forest annually, which would otherwise have gone to landfills."
dumpster.penguin
 
Posts: 236
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 8:57 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Oct 01, 2018 11:18 am

Sounds about right. Don’t forget offending conservative older folks (also won’t defend a diner that won’t serve food like it did in the past.)

I don’t think it’s the wise move long-term, but it’s what One Mass is pursuing.
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Mon Oct 01, 2018 2:08 pm

If this leads to Amtrak balancing their books or an entire route suddenly covering it's costs I would say they did the right thing. Pretty hard to justify shutting down a route when they aren't losing money. Congress, especially the Senate staff, won't allow it.
gokeefe
User avatar
gokeefe
 
Posts: 10875
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:28 pm
Location: Winthrop, Maine

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Oct 01, 2018 8:35 pm

I just heard a radio interview by Michael Lewis, author of The Fifth Risk. He’s been tracking the executive agencies under Trump, particularly the lesser-scrutinized ones like Commerce and Energy, and his conclusion is twofold: 1) the vast majority of political appointees under this administration have either been stubbornly but benignly ignorant of their agency’s role, or have been actively fighting against them for years and are now the foxes in the chicken coop, and 2) to a person, this class of appointee has been solely focused on short-term gain and entirely oblivious to long-term effectiveness and stability. That is, even if you are a proponent of business, the states, and the individual people taking on certain responsibilities that the Federal Government now carries, these actions are creating a vacuum that can’t be filled by those other entities.

I don’t think Richard Anderson is out to sabotage Amtrak; he wouldn’t be trying to push corridors if he were actively kill off the corporation. I do think he is focused on the major short-term changes demanded by a president with a “change everything” mentality, a short attention span, and a love for seeing his name on big things. Killing off the dining car is a change that is certainly expedient and helps Amtrak balance its F&B budget to Congressional satisfaction. However, it may kill experimentation with passenger amenities too, and in the long term will make Amtrak a less attractive travel option.
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby gokeefe » Mon Oct 01, 2018 9:27 pm

I remain thoroughly unconvinced that cutbacks in the top tier food service options (while keeping the lounge/cafe) will negatively affect ridership.

Amtrak is a transportation company. Transportation is the primary product and theirs is better by far than almost any other mass market alternative. It may cost more but many are willing to pay for it.
gokeefe
User avatar
gokeefe
 
Posts: 10875
Joined: Sat Feb 16, 2008 12:28 pm
Location: Winthrop, Maine

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Backshophoss » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:29 am

The"Panera Bread" Food service model is not working,there's more negative feedback than the rare positive feedback,too much waste on
packaging,and too many times of "Sorry,we ran out of that item" at the time the passenger makes a chose at the table.
Also not allowing Biz class and Coach access to the diner, on the trains converted to this mistake of on board food service.
While it might make the "Micascope" crowd of critters in DC happy,this will come back to haunt Amtrak with low ridership counts in the future.

A combined Arbys+ Sonic with Subway type "Fast Food" might have been better accepted by the passengers
Backshophoss
 
Posts: 5607
Joined: Mon Mar 05, 2012 7:58 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Ken W2KB » Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:38 am

mtuandrew wrote:I just heard a radio interview by Michael Lewis, author of The Fifth Risk. He’s been tracking the executive agencies under Trump, particularly the lesser-scrutinized ones like Commerce and Energy, and his conclusion is twofold: 1) the vast majority of political appointees under this administration have either been stubbornly but benignly ignorant of their agency’s role, or have been actively fighting against them for years and are now the foxes in the chicken coop, and 2) to a person, this class of appointee has been solely focused on short-term gain and entirely oblivious to long-term effectiveness and stability. That is, even if you are a proponent of business, the states, and the individual people taking on certain responsibilities that the Federal Government now carries, these actions are creating a vacuum that can’t be filled by those other entities.


Interesting point of view, but within the Department of Energy, the very important and powerful regulatory agency with which I am very familiar, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has had to date three of its five commissioners appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. The background and knowledge of all three appointees reflect both a knowledge of the industries that they regulate as well as representing diverse interests which were often not in alignment as to desired policy. These are the biographies of the three: https://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/chatterjee/chatterjee-bio.asp?csrt=10251420217830503861 , https://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/glick/glick-bio.asp?csrt=10251420217830503861 , https://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/mcintyre/mcintyre-bio.asp?csrt=10251420217830503861. The fourth Commissioner (one Commissioner position is currently vacant) was appointed by President Obama and also has extensive energy industry experience as a senior executive with a large electric utility company https://www.ferc.gov/about/com-mem/lafleur/lafleur-bio.asp?csrt=10251420217830503861
~Ken :: Fairmont ex-UP/MP C436 MT-14M1 ::
Black River Railroad Historical Trust :: [/url]
User avatar
Ken W2KB
 
Posts: 5717
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2004 9:27 pm
Location: Lebanon Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey & Tiverton, RI USA

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Oct 02, 2018 1:14 pm

Backshophoss wrote:The"Panera Bread" Food service model is not working,there's more negative feedback than the rare positive feedback,too much waste on
packaging,and too many times of "Sorry,we ran out of that item" at the time the passenger makes a chose at the table.
Also not allowing Biz class and Coach access to the diner, on the trains converted to this mistake of on board food service.
While it might make the "Micascope" crowd of critters in DC happy,this will come back to haunt Amtrak with low ridership counts in the future.

A combined Arbys+ Sonic with Subway type "Fast Food" might have been better accepted by the passengers

But that’s the problem, it isn’t the Panera model, with parcooked food waiting to be purchased, heated, and served as different optional courses of a meal. It’s a glorified hotel continental breakfast, free with purchase of accommodations but totally unavailable to anyone outside the hotel. If Anderson has been able to intervene before the V-II diners were complete but after they were ordered, I’m sure he would have changed their layout to have customer-accessible refrigerators and a microwave rather than their full kitchens.

If anyone at One Mass is listening, bring back the grill car concept!

——-

Ken: I’m glad to hear and read that. Lewis had specifically talked about DoE’s role in keeping America’s nuclear arsenal ready, and how none of the middle management seemed to care. Perhaps these industry professionals have changed the culture at the Department back toward one of responsibility, but all around there seems to have been a steep departmental learning curve - Lewis asserts that the new appointees refused to engage in Obama administration efforts to make it a smooth transition.
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mmi16 » Wed Oct 03, 2018 3:38 pm

Anderson's intent is to screw over anything Amtrak does to drive away customers, all in the name of cutting costs.
Never too old to have a happy childhood!
User avatar
mmi16
 
Posts: 936
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 5:18 pm
Location: USA

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:25 pm

Recent news posting:

Various Amtrak sources have told Railway Age that the brand-new CAF USA-built Viewliner II dining cars are having their expensive cooking equipment removed and undergoing conversion into lounge cars.
bostontrainguy
 
Posts: 1335
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 11:14 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Mon Nov 19, 2018 2:06 pm

bostontrainguy wrote:Recent news posting:

Various Amtrak sources have told Railway Age that the brand-new CAF USA-built Viewliner II dining cars are having their expensive cooking equipment removed and undergoing conversion into lounge cars.

Lemonade from lemons, which would be fine, but we really wanted lemon meringue pie instead.
User avatar
mtuandrew
 
Posts: 5132
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

PreviousNext

Return to Amtrak

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: JamesRR, NeedhamLine, SimplySam and 17 guests