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

Dcell
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:14 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Dcell » Sat Jan 19, 2019 3:14 pm

pateljones wrote:I agree and I am willing to pay higher prices to get better meals. By higher, I mean $20-$25 for breakfast entrees and $50-$75 for dinner entrees. I don’t see Amtrak breaking even let along making a small profit by offering a steak dinner for under $75. How do you feel about this?
The rail unions would never allow it but I’d like to see a concessionaire like Aramark take over Amtrak’s food service.

ryanov
Posts: 4891
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:19 am
Location: Newark, NJ

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by ryanov » Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:47 am

Dcell wrote:The rail unions would never allow it but I’d like to see a concessionaire like Aramark take over Amtrak’s food service.
Why would you "like" to see that terrible idea? Do you like bad food, or eliminating good jobs, or... what?
|=| R. Novosielski |=|

Dcell
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:14 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Dcell » Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:46 am

No, I don’t like bad food. In fact, I want better quality food and more variety. That’s why I suggested a firm that already provides meal services might be able to achieve those goals. If you’ve had bad experiences with Aramark, there are other food service companies out there. I’ve stayed at El Tovar and found Aramark meals quite good. Point is, I think riders want better food options and better quality that what Amtrak is able to provide.

User avatar
BandA
Posts: 2803
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:47 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by BandA » Tue Jan 22, 2019 9:07 pm

Typically, food service workers amongst the most poorly paid, often receiving close to minimum wage. Has something to do with the fact that most people know how to cook food. Amtraks' unionized workforce has difficulty competing, plus you do have the limited number of customers. And there is Flippy the Robot in development.

Why are they restricting meals to sleeper passengers only? If these new meals are being prepared by a vendor in a commissary, perhaps Amtraks' meal cost is so high that each additional meal is a net loss. Or perhaps they are dialing back the number of meals served to see what the reduced staff can handle (I assume the meal staff has been reduced?) before allowing coach passengers back in at a later date.

So they have new convection ovens on these LD diners. I read that the Acela uses "sous vide" cooking - i.e. cooking food in bags in controlled temperature water. Supposedly you can even cook steak this way although you would have to apply the searing lines before or after (perhaps paint on some caramel color!). Which works better? Convection ovens are ideal for cooking breads, french bread, and fresh croissants!

ryanov
Posts: 4891
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:19 am
Location: Newark, NJ

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by ryanov » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:32 am

For every "El Tovar," I've got a competing high school cafeteria to show you. I wonder which Amtrak would be more likely to resemble if contracting to Aramark.
|=| R. Novosielski |=|

eolesen
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:01 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by eolesen » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:17 am

I've eaten in dozens of Aramark facilities, including corporate cafeterias, schools and even a Scout camp. Quality is directly related to the serving volume.

If you want to feed 1,000+ kids or Scouts in a 45 minute period, and the food has to be prepared in mass quantity, there's only so much you can do.

When you're only preparing food for 50-200 people with individual portions over several hours, the quality goes up exponentially.

There's absolutely nothing special about being a railroad employee cooking and serving meals, and a vendor cooking and serving meals. Some are going to excel, others are there just for the benefits.

There is a difference in the management, though. Food safety is a core function for Aramark. At Amtrak, it's a necessary evil and a cost center.

Arlington
Posts: 4026
Joined: Wed Jun 02, 2004 7:51 am
Location: Medford MA (was Arlington MA and Arlington VA)

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Arlington » Wed Jan 23, 2019 10:27 am

So Mr. Olesen, what would you think is the right food/catering solution for
Acela First
LD Business
LD Sleeper
"Trying to solve congestion by making roadways wider is like trying to solve obesity by buying bigger pants."--Charles Marohn

Suburban Station
Posts: 3337
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2007 5:11 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Suburban Station » Wed Jan 23, 2019 11:22 am

Dcell wrote:
pateljones wrote:I agree and I am willing to pay higher prices to get better meals. By higher, I mean $20-$25 for breakfast entrees and $50-$75 for dinner entrees. I don’t see Amtrak breaking even let along making a small profit by offering a steak dinner for under $75. How do you feel about this?
The rail unions would never allow it but I’d like to see a concessionaire like Aramark take over Amtrak’s food service.
aramark has extensive experience working with unionized employees. in my experience it is often inferior but it is unlikely to be worse than what amtrak already offers. if aramark can do it more cost effectively that might allow more flexibility in the operation. that said, aramark already provides the food, this would be more about aramark taking over the on train operation as well.

CharlieL
Posts: 28
Joined: Fri Jul 22, 2016 6:07 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by CharlieL » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:25 pm

Interesting column by Salena Zito which touched on this subject (last Saturday). Worth a read.

Dcell
Posts: 176
Joined: Mon Jan 22, 2007 9:14 pm

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Dcell » Wed Jan 23, 2019 3:54 pm

Suburban Station wrote:
Dcell wrote:
pateljones wrote:I agree and I am willing to pay higher prices to get better meals. By higher, I mean $20-$25 for breakfast entrees and $50-$75 for dinner entrees. I don’t see Amtrak breaking even let along making a small profit by offering a steak dinner for under $75. How do you feel about this?
The rail unions would never allow it but I’d like to see a concessionaire like Aramark take over Amtrak’s food service.
aramark has extensive experience working with unionized employees. in my experience it is often inferior but it is unlikely to be worse than what amtrak already offers. if aramark can do it more cost effectively that might allow more flexibility in the operation. that said, aramark already provides the food, this would be more about aramark taking over the on train operation as well.
Yes, Aramark’s business is being a concessionaire providing food services. Why not let Aramark - or a similar food services provider — take over the management and operation of Amtrak’s lounge and dining cars? Amtrak would set the specifics of what has to be provided (for example, at least 4 hot entree choices for dinners) and Aramark would be totally responsible for meeting the requirements. I think Amtrak passengers would benefit from greater dining variety and consistent service.

eolesen
Posts: 472
Joined: Sat Apr 17, 2010 12:01 am

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by eolesen » Wed Jan 23, 2019 5:15 pm

Arlington wrote:So Mr. Olesen, what would you think is the right food/catering solution for
Acela First
LD Business
LD Sleeper
DCell just provided the answer --- let Aramark, Sodexo, or someone else manage onboard services (sleeper attendants, food service and lounge staff), and leave Amtrak to worry about operations and mechanical.

The usual approach for a functional outsourcing like this would be to set standards to follow (e.g. minimum hours of operation for lounge/dining, lavatory cleanliness) and come up with a formula by which the supplier has a minimum revenue guarantee for staffing the trains, and Amtrak gets a share of the profits in excess of the suppliers costs plus markup. It has to be structured in a way that both Amtrak and the supplier have risk and gain.

mtuandrew
Posts: 5873
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:19 pm

If you outsource food service and have (say) two Aramark employees making $15/hr/person instead of two Amtrak employees at $30/hour/person, does Amtrak then need to add back an Assistant Conductor at $30/hour due to lack of qualified staff? Those Aramark employees won’t be trained on air brakes or electrical controls, and won’t be able to help passengers with anything but electricron’s hot dogs :P They’ll be passengers as far as Amtrak is concerned.

Greg Moore
Posts: 5362
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2004 12:15 am
Location: IT Consultant

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by Greg Moore » Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:34 pm

mtuandrew wrote:If you outsource food service and have (say) two Aramark employees making $15/hr/person instead of two Amtrak employees at $30/hour/person, does Amtrak then need to add back an Assistant Conductor at $30/hour due to lack of qualified staff? Those Aramark employees won’t be trained on air brakes or electrical controls, and won’t be able to help passengers with anything but electricron’s hot dogs :P They’ll be passengers as far as Amtrak is concerned.
That was an argument for when Subway tried to replace the cafe car on Empire Service trains: "But the cafe attendant is trained and the Subway person is not, this is a safety issue."

Ok, perhaps but... when Subway gave up, the Empire trains never regained a 3rd member of the crew or an OBS person, i.e. they stuck with two. But now they also often have a 6th car.

Now, I will grant, having a 3rd Amtrak trained person on board could be a big plus, it's obviously not a requirement.
Check out QuiCR, Quick, Crowdsourced Responses for businesses.

mtuandrew
Posts: 5873
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:59 am
Location: the Manassas Gap Independent Line

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by mtuandrew » Wed Jan 23, 2019 8:11 pm

That’s why I was wondering. If it means going from a crew of 5 to a crew of 4 + 2 contractors, maybe it isn’t worth it. If it means going from a crew of 5 to a crew of 3 + 2, maybe it is.

ryanov
Posts: 4891
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2004 2:19 am
Location: Newark, NJ

Re: Amtrak Diner and Food Service Discussion

Post by ryanov » Wed Jan 23, 2019 9:47 pm

It's really something how many people are available at any given moment to cheer on the loss of good jobs, union or otherwise. Don't spend that $1.50 in tax savings (that none of us will ever actually see) in one place.
|=| R. Novosielski |=|

Return to “Amtrak”