Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

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

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gokeefe
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by gokeefe » Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:17 pm

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.
They have first priority. Diner crew takes reservations from coach for any excess seating times after taking sleeping car reservations.
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R36 Combine Coach
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by R36 Combine Coach » Tue Jun 04, 2019 12:14 am

On Auto Train though, coach and sleepers have separate diners (the menu is also different).
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Tue Jun 04, 2019 10:29 am

Ron and Tom: if Amtrak were to move to off-train mid-trip food suppliers, it would have to work with restaurants or banquet facilities that could handle 100 orders at a time. Hence customers ordering through the Amtrak app - their food orders would be guaranteed on-time at (Kalamazoo, Toledo, Albuquerque, whichever) while the everyday DoorDash or Postmates delivery drivers would not be allowed to deliver through Amtrak property. If one vendor couldn’t cover the order, two or three could supply a rounded menu with relatively-standard offerings as well as a couple regional specialties and religious/dietary-restricted items.

You’d still need to haul a table car (fka dining car) as a distribution point, which should also be a coffee shop in my opinion. You can’t get a good cup of anything but coffee on Amtrak, and even that is iffy - an espresso machine and good blender isn’t cheap but it would be worth its weight in gold. (Check out DD, Peet’s, Sbux, Tim Horton’s, Biggby’s, etc prices on lattes and frozen drinks and tell me Amtrak shouldn’t offer them.)

electricron
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by electricron » Wed Jun 05, 2019 2:00 am

Why contract out to vendors along the train's route to provide food and drinks - so you can eliminate the one attendant in the cafe car - when you need that attendant to distribute the food and drinks anyways and make the sales transaction.
The better solution is to follow NCRR's example with vending machines servicing customers on Amtrak's Piedmont trains. The machines are stocked and serviced overnight at the train's turn-around location, with the vending machines handling the cash or credit transaction, and distributing the food and drinks. You completely eliminate the attendant position on the train - replacing it with a vendor maintaining the machines overnight.

Do you really need a human on the train servicing customers, or will a vending machine suffice?

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jun 05, 2019 7:01 am

Ron: depends, do you want hot prepared food or is cold shelf-stable food okay? New York State might have a different response for NYP-ALB than North Carolina does for RGH-CLT or Michigan does for CHI-PON. I’m suggesting hot food with one attendant, or two if you have someone running a coffee shop (in lieu of a standard cafe) as well.

electricron
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by electricron » Wed Jun 05, 2019 8:48 pm

And what I am replying is why can't your one attendant cook the food as well as serve it in your cafe style cafe? If the attendant can cook the food, why load freshly prepared semi-warm meals from vendors aboard at every meal?
Ever ate a pizza at the restaurant? It comes to the table pipping hot, but by the time you get to the last piece it is cold. Total elapse time from pipping hot to cold as ice being less than 30 minutes. Please do not suggest any preprepared meals leaving the restaurant pipping hot, elapse time getting to the train stations and then aboard usually late trains, sometimes hours late trains, will arrive at your sleeper room or coach seat in any condition other than lukewarm at best, cold at worst.
I trying to suggest it should be cheaper for Amtrak to just hire a cook to prepare the meal and a wait person to serve the food.

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:13 pm

They certainly could, Ron. Any small coffee shop with a Turbochef-style convection oven has the ability to serve hot foods with one person behind the bar. With two people, you could heat and serve 30 small meals an hour, but with one, you’re very limited in the speed of service. That’s especially true when you are trying to serve varied, multi-part meals that don’t come in a TV dinner tray.

It is up to Amtrak to figure out whether serving hot foods would pay for itself, at appx $1000/day/train additional profit in order to pay for an extra attendant and the food stock on regional trains. If not, DoorDash offers a greater variety at limited or no cost to Amtrak, and possibly a small profit margin itself.

R36 Combine Coach
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by R36 Combine Coach » Wed Jun 05, 2019 10:32 pm

mtuandrew wrote:They certainly could, Ron. Any small coffee shop with a Turbochef-style convection oven has the ability to serve hot foods with one person behind the bar. With two people, you could heat and serve 30 small meals an hour, but with one, you’re very limited in the speed of service.
Does Amfleet II diner lite have one or two crew members? The Cardinal menu implies diner style service, with meals brought to the table. An Amfleet II was on display at GCT for NTD 2012 and full "diner lite" meals were displayed.
Since my friend continues to chain smoke nonstop, she is probably an Alco.

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Tadman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Tadman » Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:03 am

electricron wrote:
mtuandrew wrote:Ron: depends, do you want hot prepared food or is cold shelf-stable food okay? New York State might have a different response for NYP-ALB than North Carolina does for RGH-CLT or Michigan does for CHI-PON. I’m suggesting hot food with one attendant, or two if you have someone running a coffee shop (in lieu of a standard cafe) as well.
And what I am replying is why can't your one attendant cook the food as well as serve it in your cafe style cafe? If the attendant can cook the food, why load freshly prepared semi-warm meals from vendors aboard at every meal?
Ever ate a pizza at the restaurant? It comes to the table pipping hot, but by the time you get to the last piece it is cold. Total elapse time from pipping hot to cold as ice being less than 30 minutes. Please do not suggest any preprepared meals leaving the restaurant pipping hot...
Based on the above info, the banquet industry is doomed. But they've realized this, and they have heated trucks, thermal storage containers, etc... ensuring that food at weddings in the country or catered lunches in large conference halls are the proper temperature. This is because caterers are in the business of supply a large quantity of narrow menu choices, hot, to the destination of your choice. A restaurant, in comparison, is in the business of supplying a wide variety of menu choices one at a time to your table, 20' from the kitchen.

Back to the Wolverine, I suggested Kalamazoo and Dearborn for a reason. There are two sizeable universities in Kalamazoo, and Ford headquarters in Dearborn. Each probably supports a large internal commissary and probably 3-4 independent businesses in the metro area in order to host conferences, symposiums, weddings, banquets, etc... Given the modern technology we call "the internet", the customers can order their meal anywhere up to 4 hours before meal time. The caterer makes 120% of requirements and has them ready at the kitchen 30 minutes before the train is scheduled. Because trains can be tracked via internet now, they can leave with a heated truck about 20 minutes before actual arrival time to meet the train.

Ron, we can load you a nice hot pizza in Kalamazoo. Or perhaps Fort Worth some day, but I'd prefer Tacoheads if I were in town. You ever try that spot?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Gilbert B Norman » Thu Jun 06, 2019 8:54 am

Volks, I think there is agreement here that if Michigan DOT chose to have their catering by a vendor other than that used by Amtrak, they are free to do so. They of course would be obligated to have that service to passengers as well as collection, safeguarding, and accountability for funds, provided by Agreement Amtrak employees.

While it would be great if the Austrian caterer, Do&Co, that Mr. Dunville has reported regarding Turkish Airlines and I have reported insofar as the Ostreich Bundesbahn is high quality, could contract with MDOT, the facility with whomever a contract is let, should be located at Battle Creek. All the Wolverines (Blue Water still so named?) stop there and it is the T&E crew base for those trains.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu Jun 06, 2019 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

electricron
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by electricron » Thu Jun 06, 2019 9:17 am

What Michigan wants and is willing to pay for Michigan gets - just like Maine.
Let's assume Michigan does hire a caterer based in Battle Creek. What do you serve passengers between Chicago and Battle Creek eastbound, what do you serve passengers between Detroit and Battle Creek westbound? Cold sodas? How when the ice has melted overnight while the train was turned around in Chicago or Detroit? How do you count the inventory, order and restock the train when the train is running in service and the attendant is busy servicing customers? There is a very valid reason why Amtrak does these chores when the train is turned around now!

Come on guys and girls, when making proposals to change the way Amtrak manages its business, you have to think like a general of an army and keep logistics in mind. You can't march an army on an empty stomach, you can't fire your weapon without ammunition, you can't treat the injured without a well equipped and trained medic, and you can only fight with what you have now - not with what you will have tommorrow, next week, next month, or next year.

mtuandrew
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Thu Jun 06, 2019 3:05 pm

Ron: you serve cans of soda pop, coffee, chips, and whatever else Amtrak currently carries. Battle Creek just becomes the meal point, where hot food is loaded for those who have ordered it ahead of time.

Or as you suggest, Amtrak could upgrade all mid-distance regional cafes to Diner Lite and carry a reasonable menu of heated-to-order food. I’m in favor of that idea in lieu of the delivery option as long as Amtrak passengers finally get a better food selection again.

(The full diner still needs to stay on Amtrak LD, even if the menu is similar to the medium-distance menu. There just isn’t room to move in a Superliner Sightseer cafe.)

danib62
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by danib62 » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:34 am

Anyone have an experience with getting a kosher meal on the Capitol Limited (or any other overnight train)? I'm booked in a roomette. Something about the change from an on-board dining car has messed up something with their system and I'm being given the runaround despite it saying right on the timetable and website that they're available with advanced notice. I've had no issues with requesting one on Acela First Class before.
"We are running with normal train service on the Red Line. We apologize for the inconvenience."

SouthernRailway
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by SouthernRailway » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:44 pm

Rail Passengers (former NARP) reports that Amtrak is offering Contemporary Dining on all Eastern LD trains starting on October 1.

dgvrengineer
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Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by dgvrengineer » Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:37 pm

I wonder if the Meteor's sleeping car prices will go down or, if contemporary dining is added to the Star, the Star's sleeper prices will go up.

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