Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

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mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Fri May 24, 2019 4:43 pm

R36: I’ve encountered them on the Wolverine a number of times too, though it’s been pushing a decade when I rode it last. That’s another service whose passengers could benefit from a mid-trip meal.

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Tadman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tadman » Wed May 29, 2019 3:24 am

The Wolverine is an interesting case. You have enough trains on a fixed route to work with a contractor in perhaps Jackson and Niles to load pre-cooked sandwiches and hot entrees. The train stops in those cities, a truck is waiting with a cart that is quickly rolled aboard. An employee distributes the sandwiches, and the empty cart is returned on the next trip. You could even pre-order when you buy your ticket, which means waste is less and demand is better met. It's hard to run out of sandwiches for 125 people when 100 of them put in an order in advance.

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Wed May 29, 2019 8:49 am

I doubt you’d get the chance to do three orders (Pontiac, Jackson, Niles) but you could probably take orders for delivery in Pontiac and Kzoo. Gives us the choice to order hot breakfast too! I don’t see why you couldn’t stock things like cereal + milk and chips for sale anytime as well.

Whoever it is, sell some Bells and Founders, some Faygo (I’m very partial to the glass-bottle Raspberry) and whichever Coney makes the better deal. This could be served either by Amtrak staff or outside staff, but better food -> better sales -> better margins -> a better look for both Lansing and One Mass.

Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Wed May 29, 2019 1:23 pm

Here is the outside contract caterer used by the Ostreich Bundesbahn (OBB):

Don's Gmbh

Their menu is PDF; enough of it is in English "to make heads or tails". I must say that Boiled Pork does not look all that "enticing". Maybe they will have something else when I go over during August.

It would seem that the Wolverines could all be stocked at Battle Creek if MDOT were looking to expand the F&B from that presently offered.

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Tadman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tadman » Thu May 30, 2019 5:54 am

mtuandrew wrote: some Faygo (I’m very partial to the glass-bottle Raspberry) and whichever Coney makes the better deal
Real talk right here. Lafayette coney only. You're cooking with gas.

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Tadman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tadman » Thu May 30, 2019 5:55 am

Gilbert B Norman wrote:Here is the outside contract caterer used by the Ostreich Bundesbahn (OBB):

Don's Gmbh

Their menu is PDF; enough of it is in English "to make heads or tails". I must say that Boiled Pork does not look all that "enticing". Maybe they will have something else when I go over during August.

It would seem that the Wolverines could all be stocked at Battle Creek if MDOT were looking to expand the F&B from that presently offered.
How about this - use Do&Co, it's the preferred vendor to Turkish Air which actually has amazing food. They could run a truck over from Detroit Metro Airport to meet trains at Dearborn.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Thu May 30, 2019 9:19 am

The OBB formerly used DoCo AG through a subsidiary, Henry GMBH.

They were much better than Don, but during '17 they lost to Don's. It appears that Henry was accused of unfair labor practices with their Hungarian workers:

https://corpwatch.org/article/austrian- ... -employees" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

But be that as it may, during '17 (prior to their getting kicked off the property), I had an excellent Veal Medallion plate aboard a RailJet. Including a "half" of Gruner Veltliner (an Austrian grape), and all for €25.

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Thu May 30, 2019 9:25 am

I’d happily settle for Panera Bread fare. A fresh salad en route would really help hit the spot - travel doesn’t just have to be hamburgers and fries.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by east point » Thu May 30, 2019 3:23 pm

If passengers could order and pay for meals on their tickets what would the break even on food service be? Then if I paid for a meal but then did not want it could I sell it to a person who did not pay for meal ?

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tom M » Thu May 30, 2019 5:02 pm

I find all the talk about having vendors available along a route, ready to restock food as needed, amusing, naïve, and idealistic. I'm all for full-service food wherever possible. At the very least, it helps to complete the experience and make it a good experience, not just an experience that was tolerable in order to get from point A to point B. But vendors along the route, ready to jump in with whatever might be needed? Not practical. The most formidable problem is the notoriously unpredictable scheduling of LD trains. Except on the NEC, I learned years ago that it is wise to expect any given train to be from 1 to 12 hours behind schedule. Not every train. Not every day. But often enough that a vendor couldn't realistically expect to meet a train at a station at the same time every day. The vendors need a significant amount of predictability. Commissaries at end points, stocking multiple trains on a regular basis, handle that reasonably well. What they can't handle is supplying more food on a train that what should be needed for the meals anticipated according to the schedule. I've been on trains where they've run out of eggs. They've run out of bread. (Think of the breakfast a full diner CAN'T prepare without those two items!) I've been on a LSL when they ran out of food and called ahead to order a bunch of boxed chicken dinners for starving passengers who had missed a meal and were still facing several hours of travel. It wasn't KFC, but an equivalent in a red/white no-name box. I've always wondered if Amtrak actually paid for that, or if the crew took it upon themselves and hoped for reimbursement later. They certainly had grateful passengers. I've travelled the NEC when we were delayed well past an appropriate meal time. The attendant took it upon himself to offer and prepare free airline-type meals from what was available. I was happy I wasn't in coach that day! Can a bad experience be made better by finding creative ways to satisfy customers? Absolutely. The tools have to be available, however.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Thu May 30, 2019 6:06 pm

Amtrak could theoretically partner with Grubhub or Door Dash (probably not Uber Eats since they already have a Lyft partnership), through the Amtrak app if possible.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tadman » Fri May 31, 2019 5:55 am

Tom M wrote:I find all the talk about having vendors available along a route, ready to restock food as needed, amusing, naïve, and idealistic. I'm all for full-service food wherever possible. At the very least, it helps to complete the experience and make it a good experience, not just an experience that was tolerable in order to get from point A to point B. But vendors along the route, ready to jump in with whatever might be needed? Not practical. The most formidable problem is the notoriously unpredictable scheduling of LD trains. Except on the NEC, I learned years ago that it is wise to expect any given train to be from 1 to 12 hours behind schedule. Not every train. Not every day. But often enough that a vendor couldn't realistically expect to meet a train at a station at the same time every day. The vendors need a significant amount of predictability. Commissaries at end points, stocking multiple trains on a regular basis, handle that reasonably well. What they can't handle is supplying more food on a train that what should be needed for the meals anticipated according to the schedule. I've been on trains where they've run out of eggs. They've run out of bread. (Think of the breakfast a full diner CAN'T prepare without those two items!) I've been on a LSL when they ran out of food and called ahead to order a bunch of boxed chicken dinners for starving passengers who had missed a meal and were still facing several hours of travel. It wasn't KFC, but an equivalent in a red/white no-name box. I've always wondered if Amtrak actually paid for that, or if the crew took it upon themselves and hoped for reimbursement later. They certainly had grateful passengers. I've travelled the NEC when we were delayed well past an appropriate meal time. The attendant took it upon himself to offer and prepare free airline-type meals from what was available. I was happy I wasn't in coach that day! Can a bad experience be made better by finding creative ways to satisfy customers? Absolutely. The tools have to be available, however.
My comments were specifically about the Wolverine, which is not a long distance train. My comments were also not about full service dining. Not sure what is amusing, naive, or idealistic about that. Even if the contractor has to be compensated for overtime once a month when the train is very late, it’s still less costly than dragging six cafes across Michigan every day.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Literalman » Sun Jun 02, 2019 6:42 pm

On May 29 I rode 97 from Trenton, NJ, to Alexandria, VA, and was surprised that a crew member came through the coach taking dinner reservations. I'd gotten the possibly wrong impression that the diners on the Silver Meteor were only for sleeping car passengers.
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Rockingham Racer » Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:34 am

Literalman wrote:On May 29 I rode 97 from Trenton, NJ, to Alexandria, VA, and was surprised that a crew member came through the coach taking dinner reservations. I'd gotten the possibly wrong impression that the diners on the Silver Meteor were only for sleeping car passengers.
I believe the limitation you're referring to applies only to the fine dining situations :P on the Cap and the Lakeshore.

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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by electricron » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:02 am

Tom M wrote:I find all the talk about having vendors available along a route, ready to restock food as needed, amusing, naïve, and idealistic. I'm all for full-service food wherever possible. At the very least, it helps to complete the experience and make it a good experience, not just an experience that was tolerable in order to get from point A to point B. But vendors along the route, ready to jump in with whatever might be needed? Not practical. The most formidable problem is the notoriously unpredictable scheduling of LD trains. Except on the NEC, I learned years ago that it is wise to expect any given train to be from 1 to 12 hours behind schedule. Not every train. Not every day. But often enough that a vendor couldn't realistically expect to meet a train at a station at the same time every day. The vendors need a significant amount of predictability. Commissaries at end points, stocking multiple trains on a regular basis, handle that reasonably well. What they can't handle is supplying more food on a train that what should be needed for the meals anticipated according to the schedule. I've been on trains where they've run out of eggs. They've run out of bread. (Think of the breakfast a full diner CAN'T prepare without those two items!) I've been on a LSL when they ran out of food and called ahead to order a bunch of boxed chicken dinners for starving passengers who had missed a meal and were still facing several hours of travel. It wasn't KFC, but an equivalent in a red/white no-name box. I've always wondered if Amtrak actually paid for that, or if the crew took it upon themselves and hoped for reimbursement later. They certainly had grateful passengers. I've travelled the NEC when we were delayed well past an appropriate meal time. The attendant took it upon himself to offer and prepare free airline-type meals from what was available. I was happy I wasn't in coach that day! Can a bad experience be made better by finding creative ways to satisfy customers? Absolutely. The tools have to be available, however.
Excellent points! But you left one logistical issue out. Fast food restaurants usually are ill equipped to handle a very large order. Try this experiment sometime; drive a school bus full of kids on an excursion somewhere and stop to eat along the way. Bring a stop watch and take the time it takes that restaurant to complete the order. Then imagine how long it would take them to complete the order for two bus loads of hungry kids - because all Amtrak trains usually have 100 or more passengers on the train. Then imagine how long it would take to complete the order of four bus loads, because most Amtrak trains usually have more than 200 passengers aboard. Most fast food restaurants would take far more time than you will ever imagine completing that order. Do the experiment, time an unexpected restaurant fulfilling a much larger order.
The few times I have experienced Amtrak ordering chicken meals because the train was very late or equipment in the diner car failed, they ordered take out for just the sleeper car passengers - not for the entire train. Something Amtrak might do once a month or so at most, scattered throughout the country; not something they would do for every train for every passenger every day. Because for those proposing doing this, their goal is to eliminate all food attendants (or whatever you describe them) aboard the trains. Almost like the unfortunate passengers aboard the SS Guppy, "No phone, no lights, no motor cars
Not a single luxury, Like Robinson Crusoe, It's primitive as can be."

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