Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

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gokeefe
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by gokeefe » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:45 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
gokeefe wrote:Kind of makes me wonder if the real answer here is more sleepers and some table cars. That might a lot of sense due to the simple design increased capacity and the ability to leverage existing personnel and assets in the galley of the diner. It does two things at once to improve economics it spreads diner personnel thinner, increases sales and increases volume through the kitchen thus spreading out that overhead. Volume might also help greatly in lowering food costs while allowing Amtrak to increase their margins (or quite frankly just decrease their losses) by maintaining the same prices. That makes a lot more sense to me than the multilevel proposal.
I like the idea of increasing seating with the same cooking facilities. However, in lieu of a table car, how about offering a slight discount (or a free beverage or dessert for sleeping car passengers) for takeout service? You get the same benefits as a table car without having to haul an extra (often empty) car, since everyone already has a seat and a table.
Sounds like a good idea to me. However, based on anecdotal evidence, at least on the Lakeshore that seems unlikely to be the case except in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. Regardless the point is still very valid, both the diner and the table car would probably spend 40%-50% of the trip empty. I would further suggest that as opposed to giving something away they could simply offer "service at your seat" for a small extra charge. Not sure if this would work or not either.
gokeefe

mtuandrew
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by mtuandrew » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:22 pm

gokeefe wrote:Sounds like a good idea to me. However, based on anecdotal evidence, at least on the Lakeshore that seems unlikely to be the case except in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. Regardless the point is still very valid, both the diner and the table car would probably spend 40%-50% of the trip empty. I would further suggest that as opposed to giving something away they could simply offer "service at your seat" for a small extra charge. Not sure if this would work or not either.
A couple bucks off for takeout, a few bucks more for at-seat service perhaps? Whatever the case, it could be a major benefit when the new sleepers come online and the diner really does get overly full.

This would be a good time to ask those in OBS or otherwise in the know - is the limiting capacity of the diner the food output, or the seating capacity? If the facility can only prepare 80 meals/hour for 80 patrons/hour (very rough guess), gokeefe's and my idea is useless. If it can prepare 200 meals/hour but still has an 80 patrons/hour seating limit, we're onto something. Notice I said nothing about the crew needs, because a spare cook can be added if capacity requires it.

hi55us
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by hi55us » Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:07 pm

mtuandrew wrote:
gokeefe wrote:Sounds like a good idea to me. However, based on anecdotal evidence, at least on the Lakeshore that seems unlikely to be the case except in the middle of the night when people are sleeping. Regardless the point is still very valid, both the diner and the table car would probably spend 40%-50% of the trip empty. I would further suggest that as opposed to giving something away they could simply offer "service at your seat" for a small extra charge. Not sure if this would work or not either.
A couple bucks off for takeout, a few bucks more for at-seat service perhaps? Whatever the case, it could be a major benefit when the new sleepers come online and the diner really does get overly full.

This would be a good time to ask those in OBS or otherwise in the know - is the limiting capacity of the diner the food output, or the seating capacity? If the facility can only prepare 80 meals/hour for 80 patrons/hour (very rough guess), gokeefe's and my idea is useless. If it can prepare 200 meals/hour but still has an 80 patrons/hour seating limit, we're onto something. Notice I said nothing about the crew needs, because a spare cook can be added if capacity requires it.
I think a better idea would be to sell sleeping car tickets that do not include the meals, you could sell 1/2 the sleepers as "economy rooms" without free meals in the Diner. These people would either use the lounge or pay to use the diner, freeing up capacity in the diner car.

jstolberg
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by jstolberg » Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:48 am

If its more tables you want, the new single-level corridor car design has two tables (seating for 8) per car.
http://www.highspeed-rail.org/Documents ... awings.pdf

The Amfleet II cars could also be configured with tables at the front of the car for families, groups, card players, etc.

8 seats per car with table space would be close to the 15% of coach passengers that currently use the diner.

The problem, of course, is that the additional tables are spread all over the train. Meals in passenger coaches would need to be packaged as "to go" meals.

Silverliner II
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by Silverliner II » Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:22 pm

electricron wrote:I hate looking at Canada for comparison purposes, but the Canadian diner seems to support far more sleeper cars than on Amtrak single level long distance trains. Does anyone know how many sittings a fully staff dining car can accommodate each night? From that answer, we should be able to determine how many sleeper cars a dining car can support. Then from that answer, we should be able to determine how many sleeper cars can be efficiently added onto a train without causing staffing problems, thereby increasing profits up to maximum.
VIA Rail's Canadian runs with two diners in the summer consist to cover the passenger load. My video of VIA #1 arriving at Abbotsford, BC, back in early September: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7hIz8AMu7U

I also rode VIA's Ocean back in 2005 on a Budd consist. The dining car had two seatings for dinner out of Moncton; attendants walked through the train taking reservations for whichever seating you wanted (until space filled up). Once the two dinner seatings were filled, that was it; anybody left over had to make do with snacks and sandwiches from the Skyline dome lounge.
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hi55us
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by hi55us » Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:44 pm

Silverliner II wrote: make do with snacks and sandwiches from the Skyline dome lounge.
Oh how much better that seems than an Amfleet Cafe!

Silverliner II
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by Silverliner II » Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:13 pm

hi55us wrote:
Silverliner II wrote: make do with snacks and sandwiches from the Skyline dome lounge.
Oh how much better that seems than an Amfleet Cafe!
Surprisingly enough... I would have preferred some of the Amfleet cafe items. But I survived, lol! I was one of the lucky 40 or so that got a seat for the 2nd dinner service in the diner, and I got a breakfast sandwich from the Skyline car in the morning before arriving in Montreal.
"*BEEEEEP!!!* Three-Three! Three! No Alarms!"
(announcement from CN hotbox/dragging equipment detector, Milepost 33, track #3, Oakville Subdivision)

Arlington
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Re: Viewliner II Delivery/Production

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 9:56 am

From the Silver Starvation thread:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Finally, now that 20 V-Diners instead of 25 will meet the existing LDSL requirements [because the "no diner" Star has been made "permanent"/"indefinite"], must wonder what those last five V-Shells will be?
SwingMan wrote:GBN, they still need to order those 5 diners. You can't under order, it never works out in the long run.
Sounds right to me. Given the Silver Star has lower losses and higher Sleeper-class ridership without a diner than with, you might think that "extra" diners are a waste. Kinda--if they could've been immediately and costlessly changed into sleepers or coaches, sure. But such changes aren't costless and some diners are called for. My guess would be that the extra diners will be kept as spares (they cost to much to actually run) but that they will eventually be rebuilt by Amtrak in-house as cafe/business or cafe/lounge cars--whatever the "new concept food" car turns out to be.

In the long run, it seems to me that "true diner"/"full-diner" makes more sense on the Superliners (space is cheaper and trips are longer) and we'll see a split: if a route *really* needs a diner (NEC-New Orleans) then it will have to be run as a superliner WAS-NOL, and if it really needs to start at NYP, run it as a Palmetto/Silver Star NYP-ATL with whatever that future rebuilt-V-II-Cafe looks like.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:00 am

Reviving this old thread from 2011 because these two have intersected again as the Silver Star's diner-removal appears permanent and the V-II diners are about to be delivered.

From the Silver Starvation thread:
Gilbert B Norman wrote:Finally, now that 20 V-Diners instead of 25 will meet the existing LDSL requirements [because the "no diner" Star has been made "permanent"/"indefinite"], must wonder what those last five V-Shells will be?
SwingMan wrote:GBN, they still need to order those 5 diners. You can't under order, it never works out in the long run.
Sounds right to me. Given the Silver Star has lower losses and higher Sleeper-class ridership without a diner than with, you might think that "extra" diners are a waste. Kinda--if they could've been immediately and costlessly changed into sleepers or coaches, sure. But such changes aren't costless and some diners are called for. My guess would be that the extra diners will be kept as spares (they cost to much to actually run) but that they will eventually be rebuilt by Amtrak in-house as cafe/business or cafe/lounge cars--whatever the "new concept food" car turns out to be.

In the long run, it seems to me that "true diner"/"full-diner" makes more sense on the Superliners (space is cheaper and trips are longer) and we'll see a split: if a route *really* needs a diner (NEC-New Orleans) then it will have to be run as a superliner WAS-NOL, and if it really needs to start at NYP, run it as a Palmetto/Silver Star NYP-ATL with whatever that future rebuilt-V-II-Cafe looks like.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

bostontrainguy
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Re: Viewliner II Delivery/Production

Post by bostontrainguy » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:18 am

SwingMan wrote:In the long run, it seems to me that "true diner"/"full-diner" makes more sense on the Superliners (space is cheaper and trips are longer) and we'll see a split: if a route *really* needs a diner (NEC-New Orleans) . . .
I would think NYC to Miami qualifies as a route that "really needs a diner"

Arlington
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:28 am

We've learned by reading the Silver Star operating costs that removing the diner saved between $600k and $900k per month which amounts to $7m to $10m per year.

Given this, any other long-distance single-level train (LDSL) whose total Sleeper ticket sales amount to $7m to $10m or lower should be considered for diner removal, since the diner's operating costs is eating ~100% of the supposed "Sleeper Premium" (which, we've learned from the Silver Star, people are happy to pay for the private room and flat bed and *not* for a diner)

So which trains have diners whose costs exceed their sleeper revenues? Here are the FY2015 totals (in millions of dollars) in Sleeper Class in "Eastern" trains (fromTable A-3.4 in Sept MPR)

_8.1 Silver Star
_2.2 Cardinal (assume diner would be $2m to $4m given half schedule and shorter route)
12.1 Silver Meteor
_8.7 Capitol Limited (just for reference as an "eastern" LD)
_9.5 Lake Shore Limited
_8.0 Crescent

I look at this list and conclude that the Crescent's dinner is as hard to justify as the Stars. Both are trains that run about 27 hours and 1400 miles, so that whatever a diner costs on the Star, it will cost approximately that on the Crescent (maybe a bit more because the Crescent is a 29 hour train). So given a diner that costs $8m per year, the whole of Sleeper ticket sales on the Crescent is going to fund the diner. Oops.

If it costs too much to switch the Crescent's diner on/off at ATL, then another alternative would be to run it unstaffed and its kitchen cold ATL-NOL. In a world of "abundant" V-II diners, letting it run unstaffed and unstocked might be the best option if it isn't strictly needed to be immediately turned North.

Meanwhile, the Meteor's and LSL's diners are probably safe. LSL's diner, covering only 18 hours and 1000 miles probably costs only $4m to $7m and so is safely less than its Sleeper revenues of $9.5m, (but golly diner fans, consider that 50% of its Sleeper revenues are still going to the diner).
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

electricron
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Re: Viewliner II Delivery/Production

Post by electricron » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:41 am

Arlington wrote:Sounds right to me. Given the Silver Star has lower losses and higher Sleeper-class ridership without a diner than with, you might think that "extra" diners are a waste. Kinda--if they could've been immediately and costlessly changed into sleepers or coaches, sure. But such changes aren't costless and some diners are called for. My guess would be that the extra diners will be kept as spares (they cost to much to actually run) but that they will eventually be rebuilt by Amtrak in-house as cafe/business or cafe/lounge cars--whatever the "new concept food" car turns out to be.

In the long run, it seems to me that "true diner"/"full-diner" makes more sense on the Superliners (space is cheaper and trips are longer) and we'll see a split: if a route *really* needs a diner (NEC-New Orleans) then it will have to be run as a superliner WAS-NOL, and if it really needs to start at NYP, run it as a Palmetto/Silver Star NYP-ATL with whatever that future rebuilt-V-II-Cafe looks like.
Don't confuse higher percentages occupancy with higher ridership. Three sleeper cars at 70% occupancy has more riders than 100% occupancy for two sleeper cars.
Some math to prove my point and keeping it simple: .7 x 3 = 2.1; 1.0 x 2 = 2.0.
From what I've read in the past here, the Silver Star routinely runs with one less sleeper car than the Silver Meteor.

Not all Superliner long distance trains run with full diners anymore. The Texas Eagle and City of New Orleans routinely use Cross Country Club cars as diners with about half the tables configured for dining, the other half configured for lounging. While the Cross Country Club cars still have the same galley on the lower level as a Diner car, I'm certain it isn't manned or used the same.

Personally, if I were riding the train all the way from New York City to Florida, I would choose the Meteor, if I were riding about half the way I would choose the Star. ;)

Having more choices for the consumer is great, as long as all consumers are well aware of the differences between trains. It would be very disappointing picking the lower fare Star and discovering the missing diner car while on the train.

Arlington
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Re: Viewliner II Delivery/Production

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:48 am

I've asked the Mods to move these last 3 posts to the Diner Economics thread, since it'll get quickly OT here (if not already)

http://railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.ph ... 9&start=30" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

When you get there, you'll see that the Meteor and the LSL's diners produce a decent-enough return, while the Crescent doesn't.
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Viewliner II Delivery/Production

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 11:04 am

bostontrainguy wrote:I would think NYC to Miami qualifies as a route that "really needs a diner"
The high sleeper-class revenues on the Silver Meteor seem to support this: $12m in Sleeper Class revenue versus $7m to $9m in diner costs. For now, I'd say that NYP-CHI and NYP-Florida would keep a diner on one flagship train.

But unless costs (staff / prep time / food) can be radically lowered, in 10 years we're going to ask again how much of that sleeper revenue would "remain" if the diner were eliminated (an immediate $7m to $9m win on the cost side) and some fraction of the the Sleeper folks and their $ stayed
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Arlington
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Re: Diner Economics (Split from Viewliner 8400 thread)

Post by Arlington » Wed Feb 03, 2016 7:28 pm

bdawe wrote:I wonder if there's scope to implement a similar scheme on LD routes with high ridership-per-route-mile like the Lake Shore or the Starlight - have two frequencies, the premium train with diner service that pulls all the people who want to pay for that, and the 'economy' train that runs with a cafe and perhaps detours a bit to serve a particular missed destination (or maybe not the last bit). Market segregation can aide in price discrimination and yield higher revenue, while the additional frequencies pull more ridership.
I'd like to think that, once freed from the constraint of every "sleeper train" needing a diner, that we'd be freer to operate more trains with a sleeper class...essentially sprinkling the sleepers across more routes. For now, that might mean putting one sleeping car on the Palmetto and seeing if anyone upgrades from business for "day" use, or putting sleepers back on 66/67 but not offering a diner.

My nagging suspicion is that diners aren't needed on day trains because day trains tend to attract shorter trips (lasting through fewer "missed' meals), and that diners aren't needed on night trains because people are willing to sleep through the "hungry parts".

But that premium-class *seating* seems like the ideal market segregation (slipping business class onto the Cardinal, putting a sleeper on the Palmetto as "office car" service)
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

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