Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Greg Moore » Mon Nov 19, 2018 11:34 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.

*. Even less reason for me to ride the eastern LD trains now.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:34 am

It was either get converted or sit in a yard in Florida. Glad to see them converted.
Last edited by Arlington on Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Amtrak706 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 8:59 am

Amtrak has been waiting 47 years for new single level diners and once we finally get them, this happens. I can’t decide whether it’s comical or depressing how this sorry excuse of a railroad manages to constantly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:38 am

It is fair to say you're disappointed and that a lack of a diner is a reason that you (personally) won't ride, but directing these emotions against Amtrak management--as if they had somehow earned your disapproval--is fundamentally unjust. They are running a transportation company on behalf of the American People. Not a museum, not a National Park, not a seasonal ferry, not an excursion train. Amtrak's mandate is to provide maximum mobility for minimum losses, and they may have made some wrong calls (I'd say it was ordering the diner before a Starvation test) but calling them a "sorry excuse" is not supported by the evidence.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Station Aficionado » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:56 am

So where is the conversion being done? Hialeah? Were long strings of diners hauled back to Elmira for the work? We would be well-advised to heed ThirdRail’s caution to be wary of unsubstantiated rumors.

That said,I generally second Arlington’s post.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby eolesen » Tue Nov 20, 2018 9:59 am

Don't blame Amtrak for the fact the diners were delayed in manufacturing -- blame CAF.

The diners were ordered in 2010, long before PRIAA 2014 was passed and required Amtrak to stop burying its food service losses.

In the meantime, the operating environment changed. Fortunately, the Viewliner design is modular enough that the cars *can* be re-purposed.

Lounge cars will serve a greater good than a diner, especially if we are looking at single level equipment returning west of Chicago.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Matt Johnson » Tue Nov 20, 2018 10:44 am

Amtrak706 wrote:Amtrak has been waiting 47 years for new single level diners and once we finally get them, this happens. I can’t decide whether it’s comical or depressing how this sorry excuse of a railroad manages to constantly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


I think the Trump minions decided they had to do irreparable damage quickly to a program that was popular and looking up under Obama, before the new equipment and capacity came online and improved the long distance numbers.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby eolesen » Tue Nov 20, 2018 1:19 pm

Matt Johnson wrote:
Amtrak706 wrote:Amtrak has been waiting 47 years for new single level diners and once we finally get them, this happens. I can’t decide whether it’s comical or depressing how this sorry excuse of a railroad manages to constantly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.


I think the Trump minions decided they had to do irreparable damage quickly to a program that was popular and looking up under Obama, before the new equipment and capacity came online and improved the long distance numbers.


So, Trump is now responsible for CAF's production delays, and Obama signing a law back in 2014 requiring Amtrak to exhibit better fiscal responsibility?.....

Got it.

Some of you seem to think this is a political decision, yet it's always been about the math, even dating back into the 1960'....

Amtrak can't keep spending money without getting a return. That's never been about politics. If you wouldn't spend your own money that way, why should Amtrak?
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Amtrak706 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 2:12 pm

Arlington wrote:It is fair to say you're disappointed and that a lack of a diner is a reason that you (personally) won't ride, but directing these emotions against Amtrak management--as if they had somehow earned your disapproval--is fundamentally unjust. They are running a transportation company on behalf of the American People. Not a museum, not a National Park, not a seasonal ferry, not an excursion train. Amtrak's mandate is to provide maximum mobility for minimum losses, and they may have made some wrong calls (I'd say it was ordering the diner before a Starvation test) but calling them a "sorry excuse" is not supported by the evidence.

I think there is a wealth of evidence to support my “sorry excuse” claim. I don’t think you need a list of their many, many failures over the years to know that they exist but I will do my best to provide one if you want. It’s way bigger than the diner fiasco, and it casts a huge shadow over the few things they might manage to get right in a “stopped clock is right twice a day” fashion. The argument that the current presidential administration has somehow influenced things at Amtrak is false, however. It would make sense if that were the case, but unfortunately the impetus for many of the recent changes is a lot less clear cut than that.

As for their “mandate,” that is provided by a complicated arrangement of legislation that has evolved over the years. If we are to look at PRIIA and PRRIA, for example, Amtrak seeems to selectively choose what parts of the law to follow. They have gotten serious about the food and beverage losses, but at the same time are ignoring the inconvenient service and growth related portions of the law, like the specific language about expanding PV and charter business opportunities.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby bostontrainguy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 2:51 pm

eolesen wrote:
Matt Johnson wrote:I think the Trump minions decided they had to do irreparable damage quickly to a program that was popular and looking up under Obama, before the new equipment and capacity came online and improved the long distance numbers.


So, Trump is now responsible for CAF's production delays, and Obama signing a law back in 2014 requiring Amtrak to exhibit better fiscal responsibility?.....

Got it.

Some of you seem to think this is a political decision, yet it's always been about the math, even dating back into the 1960'....

Amtrak can't keep spending money without getting a return. That's never been about politics. If you wouldn't spend your own money that way, why should Amtrak?


I know what you are saying but how about trying other ideas? I can't see how this is going to generate much money from that expensive piece of equipment. Selling a few more drinks ain't going to do it. Has Amtrak tried to generate more money with the diners? What about selling decent boxed meals to everyone on the train? Would that generate more money for not much more personnel? Selling take-out meals to coach passengers would generate more money. The 24-hour diner concept on the Lake Shore Limited would definitely generate more money and sounds like an interesting option. How can an exclusive first-class lounge car make much money? Did the Pacific Parlour Cars make money?
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby eolesen » Tue Nov 20, 2018 5:07 pm

That's exactly why they're pursuing the RFI/RFP for third-party catering. There's money to be made, but not as long as it's Amtrak employees punching the timeclock to deliver it.

Going with pre-plated or shelf-stable meals that are provisioned and warmed up airline style would be "different" and possibly work, except in the mind of a few "that's not how Fred Harvey did it" people here.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby Arlington » Tue Nov 20, 2018 5:10 pm

bostontrainguy wrote:What about selling decent boxed meals to everyone on the train? Would that generate more money for not much more personnel? ?

...which would probably work best if the onboard cooking equipment was removed.

bostontrainguy wrote: How can an exclusive first-class lounge car make much money?
Who said it was exclusive to First Class? Maybe there's a Business Class concept that happens not to be part of the cooking-removal rumor.

But really, "make more money" while interesting, is only [a third] the puzzle. The others are: (2) Sell more units and (3) cost fewer costs. Sitting immobile and unmodified on a Florida siding is great at costing fewer costs. Changing the modular equipment could, by that standard, be called a bold experiment in reconfiguration, except people here have a very fixed idea that the only good management is the management that only lavishes the same or greater food experience.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby mtuandrew » Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:04 pm

I have some experience with small-plate fare now, and I can say firsthand that it’s very possible to use a convection oven to prepare parcooked sandwiches and entrees, and do it quickly. It’s also pretty simple to load a rack of said entrees, pastries, and sandwiches at any major stop - it only really takes 10 minutes to deliver, secure, and check the temperature - and if you aren’t pressed for time, you can offer such a menu with a single person behind the counter. These are items that run anywhere from $4 to $7 a la carte in cafes, mind, and stay fresh for three (sandwiches) to seven days (vacuum-sealed sous vide items) refrigerated. It isn’t gonna be Delmonico’s, but it would be perfectly fine and profitable food for a train.

Also, even if they do return to a full-service diner, Amtrak really can’t justify a waiter for off-hours at least. If there’s a particular rider who can’t either order or carry their food, the employee can probably take a break from meal prep to get their order.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby David Benton » Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:53 pm

The sleeper and coach attendants should be delivering the food , or at least helping.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Postby hs3730 » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:36 pm

During breakfast and dinner the sleeper attendants are busy converting the rooms.
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