Amtrak Dining and Cafe service discussion 2024 Q1

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It really depends on the diligence of your SCA. On a northbound trip on the combined Silver Star/Silver Meteor (The "SuperStar") in 2022, there were five (5) sleepers. I was in the rearmost car. Walking through the other cars to the diner, two of them had coffee waiting for their passengers. The other three (my car included) did not!
 
Not sure how recent of a change this is, but I know since Covid, coach passengers were not able to eat in the dining car. On the CS yesterday, coach passengers were able to make dining car reservations and several in my car did so. I had brought my food, so didn’t make a reservation myself. Prices were breakfast $20, lunch $25, and dinner $45

That changed last year. It started out as a trial on the starlight and has been expanded to all western long distance trains.
 
Hopefully it is not behind a paywall, but here is an item from Bob Johnston on the Lake Shore Limited dining showing what was lost.

I have to disagree with him on one point. We found the fork tender beef flatiron served in the diner lite car on one of our cross country trips a few years ago to be delicious and perhaps the best meal of the entire trip.

https://www.trains.com/trn/railroad..._0000000000_Member&[email protected]
 
Hopefully it is not behind a paywall, but here is an item from Bob Johnston on the Lake Shore Limited dining showing what was lost.

I have to disagree with him on one point. We found the fork tender beef flatiron served in the diner lite car on one of our cross country trips a few years ago to be delicious and perhaps the best meal of the entire trip.

https://www.trains.com/trn/railroad..._0000000000_Member&[email protected]
I rode the westbound Lake Shore a lot in the mid- to late 1980s and certainly agree with Johnston that the experience in that era was superb. As a coach passenger heading back upstate, I always planned on dinner in the diner in those years when the LSL still left from Grand Central, and the diner was a reason to take the Lake Shore rather than one of the other Empire corridor trains, even if the Turboliners were faster. As Johnston says, on most trips the food and service still had echoes of the distinguished trains that had plied the same route in the past.

In more recent decades I still rode the Lake Shore once or twice a year on trips to the Midwest or West and witnessed its various changes, including the two long stretches of "diner lite" service which were at least tolerable and in retrospect seem quite good. But after a couple of overnight trips following the arrival of "contemporary" (later "flexible") dining in 2018, I swore off riding the LSL. Both trips I stewed nearly the whole way from Chicago to Albany about how much I detested what Amtrak had done to the service, so I decided it would be healthier for me, and probably for everyone else, if I just stayed away.

I hope that when the next chapter is written, as Johnston puts it, it will rekindle some of the magic that was lost.
 
Although impossible to quantify. How many persons do not book on Amtrak especially coach with the dinning situation as it is now? Once enough coach seats are available ( Not sold out daily ) then will it be important to provide proper diner service?
 
Although impossible to quantify. How many persons do not book on Amtrak especially coach with the dinning situation as it is now? Once enough coach seats are available ( Not sold out daily ) then will it be important to provide proper diner service?
I suspect that it doesn't have much effect on coach ridership because many coach passengers by now have been educated to have very low expectations.

As a sleeper car passenger, I have not taken several trips in the past year because of the lack of amenities on the Texas Eagle and the Crescent. I consider taking a sleeping car trip on those trains to be akin to throwing money away.

And I have also avoided 448 because of the lack of amenities and the fact that if that train is excessively late, it is another night on a bench in South Station awaiting the first bus to Maine the next morning. I have done that twice (and close to three times) and I don't care to do it again. I admit that although uncomfortable and tiring it is easy on the budget compared to Boston hotel prices.
 
448 usually does pretty good these days. CSX has gotten a bit better the last couple years
That is correct. Often 448 does okay. Looking at the arrival data for the last month I see that only twice did 448 arrive so late that passengers would have missed the last Concord bus for Maine at 11:15 P.M. The last time my wife and I came back on 448 we did okay and were able to make the bus without difficulty. The two times that she was with me before that, 448 was seriously late and we spent the night on a bench in South Station. Fortunately it was not crowded and we each had our own bench for the night.
 
Although impossible to quantify. How many persons do not book on Amtrak especially coach with the dinning situation as it is now? Once enough coach seats are available ( Not sold out daily ) then will it be important to provide proper diner service?
It's hard to sort out how many coach travelers opted to stay away because of Covid concerns vs. dining concerns. But in the winter of 2019-20 I started seeing the Lake Shore coming into Rensselaer from the west with just three coaches -- one for Boston and two for New York. Previously I don't ever recall seeing fewer than two coaches for Boston and three for New York, even in winter. But I am pretty sure I started seeing these shortened consists in January or February 2020 -- i.e., before Covid started keeping everyone home -- so I suspect coach travel was already down when the pandemic hit. By this point it had already been a year and half since regular dining service went away and was replaced by the sleeper-only contemporary/flex meals. Of course, there were always fewer travelers in the depth of winter in any case.
 
One thing that I observed on the Empire Builder was that the LSA in the diner was actively discouraging coach passengers from eating in the diner. He would make statements such as: "Are you sure you want to eat in here? It's Expensive. The lounge car is that way. Here is the menu, take a look." He was not welcoming at all.
 
It's hard to sort out how many coach travelers opted to stay away because of Covid concerns vs. dining concerns. But in the winter of 2019-20 I started seeing the Lake Shore coming into Rensselaer from the west with just three coaches -- one for Boston and two for New York. Previously I don't ever recall seeing fewer than two coaches for Boston and three for New York, even in winter. But I am pretty sure I started seeing these shortened consists in January or February 2020 -- i.e., before Covid started keeping everyone home -- so I suspect coach travel was already down when the pandemic hit. By this point it had already been a year and half since regular dining service went away and was replaced by the sleeper-only contemporary/flex meals. Of course, there were always fewer travelers in the depth of winter in any case.
There might have been an immediate reactionary effect. Unfortunately with the Lake Shore it was difficult to measure because at the same exact time "Contemporary dining" was introduced there was a Sputyn Duyvil construction project that resulted in the train not running to New York and ran strictly Chicago - Boston - and during that period there was also days when Boston was bussed due to the annual CSX work blitz on the B&A so the train simply ran Albany - Chicago. Additionally they were also tinkering with the eastern consists at the same time as part of Anderson's "break even" quest. This year is the first year since Anderson was around that they have not cut the Lake Shore down to 3 coaches in the winter. Given how long its been since the train went to contemporary and later flexible dining any initial impact is probably gone. They've also been running the train with an additional sleeper line during busy season. I think probably a big factor in the more recent performance improvement on this train is the improvement in on time performance on CSX. Also the manner in which the flex dining is done on the Lake Shore within a VL2 diner and with a dedicated attendant is far superior to whats being done on the Crescent for instance. Having said that we all do hope for a dining improvement.
 
Got breakfast this morning on NER 162 out of Baltimore. The attendant said that the carboard trays weren't coming on until they got to Wilmington, but, no problem, she carried our meal for us right to our seats! First time I've ever seen that in coach. You can be sure I gave a tip. I guess it helped that it was very early Sunday morning, and the train was empty. We picked up a lot more people at New York, and they announced that because they were using a club-cafe car with only half the seats, there was a 20-minute limit for eating your meal, no hanging out like usual. This meant that there was business class style 2x1 seating n the coach section, but I just stayed up front in my regular coach seat. The train is a bit slow because we're stopping at more places, but we're running on time, so I'm not complaining.
 
Got a bit of a weird questions for the Silver Meteor from NYP->WAS

1. Are you within the scheduled dining period? (Runs from 3:15 PM -> 6:48PM)
2. Also are coach passengers able to buy dinner here? Or is that still a sleeper exclusive?

I’d assume because it’s traditional dining you would be allowed to pay for it like you can on West of Chicago trains. Or is that still something that can only be done west of Chicago?
 
Got a bit of a weird questions for the Silver Meteor from NYP->WAS

1. Are you within the scheduled dining period? (Runs from 3:15 PM -> 6:48PM)
2. Also are coach passengers able to buy dinner here? Or is that still a sleeper exclusive?

I’d assume because it’s traditional dining you would be allowed to pay for it like you can on West of Chicago trains. Or is that still something that can only be done west of Chicago?
Coach passengers are not able to purchase meals on the Silvers as of now, unlike the Western trains.
 
When it's not bustituted, does the Crescent serve dinner before arriving in NOL @ 9:02 pm? Everything near my hotel (Drury) seems to close by 10pm.
Yes, you will get dinner included in a bedroom or roomette. They will dictate the time you will be served in your room. The down side is their flex meals are really bad. I have had them all and none of them are enjoyable. Here is a picture of the chicken parmesan.IMG_1227.jpeg
 
The Crescent and The Texas Eagle should be the next trains to return to traditional dining. Of course,I have no proof but these are the two longest routes still with flex. Agree with many, flex food ranges from awful to barely adequate and I have had many flex meals. To pay what sleepers go for and to be served this dreck is inexcusable.
 
I want to go from ATL to WAS by train but not until there is a dining car. Everyday I pass the Amtrak station on the interstate and look to see if there is a dining car. Everyday I am disappointed. ☹️
This is Amtrak. When it comes to dining on the Crescent, Lake Shore and City of New Orleans they are specialists in disappointment.
 
Amtrak should add the revenue capacity to its LD routes. More total passengers on a route would allow for justification to restore traditional dining. Posts seem to indicate that only 2 to maybe 3 seatings are on many of the LD routes. Carrying more passengers may call for seatings from 1630 = 2100 which reduces the costs of the non-revenue car per passenger. This proposal will mean intermediate catering of the diner will be necessary.
 
Amtrak should add the revenue capacity to its LD routes. More total passengers on a route would allow for justification to restore traditional dining. Posts seem to indicate that only 2 to maybe 3 seatings are on many of the LD routes. Carrying more passengers may call for seatings from 1630 = 2100 which reduces the costs of the non-revenue car per passenger. This proposal will mean intermediate catering of the diner will be necessary.
Realistically you can do 5 seatings of 44 per seating in current Diners which is 220. So to serve a train with 1650 or so would require a very large number of Dining Cars in the train.

This is the reason that Indian Railways pretty much gave up on Dining Cars when they realized that passenger demand was such that they will have to run many doze 24 car trains to come anywhere close to meeting demand, and transitioned to service at seat with ordering for food evolving to use Smartphone Apps. There really is no other viable way to serve such volumes of customers. Before biting the bullet, in a last gasp attempt to save the Diner (or Restaurant Car as they are called in that part of the world) they had these wonderful twin unit married pair AC Dining/Kitchen/Dorm sets. But then they saw the writing on the wall and gave up on Dining Cars. This was back in the early '70s.

As long as you can keep your trains10-12 cars you can manage with several Dining Cars. A 25 Car Canadian IIRC operated with upto 5 Dining Cars in the longest incarnation of it that I have been on. That is verging on the impractical.

Fortunately I doubt that Amtrak trains will ever have to deal with that sort of demand, so they may be able to pull it off with at most two Diners per train and some additional seating in Lounges perhaps, as they do on the Auto Train.
 
I believe @west point is talking about expanding the dinner period (4:30 pm - 9:00 pm) rather than passenger numbers.
That is correct. That time line using 45 meal times would allow in a perfect world 7 seatings. So, serve about 300 riders. If needed then use part of lounge for meals. However, cannot imagine 300 riders wanting to eat in diner as many coach passengers are shorts or on budgets.
 
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