Amtrak Dining Car service

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marcoloco

Train Attendant
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Jul 8, 2022
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Houston, TX
Why is the Texas Eagle such a failure now?

This is my opinion only - but it comes down to the Board / Management’s attitude towards long distance. Their words say they care - their actions say they don’t.

When all the incentives are based around cost cutting - the current situation is what you get.

Until someone at the top actually cares about running long distance trains well - expect lip service and marginal improvements at best.
Keep in mind that right now, Amtrak is still in "Covid" mode. They are still not letting coach passengers eat in the dining car and other cutbacks are still in effect. Amtrak was unable to cash in on the high gas prices, because of being stuck in "Covid" mode. I'm the most frequent traveler on the Sunset Limited from Texas and sleeping car space is very hard to get since they took off one of our sleepers. We are all waiting for Amtrak to pull out of "covid" mode and get back to "normal" pre-covid mode. They have the equipment and plenty of it. Pay no attention to "equipment shortages". Once something is cut in Amtrak, it's very, very, very hard (if not impossible), to get it back. I make about 10 round trip annually in the sleeping car from Houston to LAX and Amtrak listens to me NO MORE than they will listen to a new first time or less frequent passenger (customer). Amtrak is still the best way to travel, I recommend it to everyone, but the more you ride it, the more you get to know AMTRAK, the way it operates, the inefficiencies, etc.
 

fdaley

OBS Chief
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Jan 25, 2020
Messages
526
Location
upstate New York
If I were management, my priority for the long-distance trains would be ensuring reliability of the equipment so there are no delays caused by breakdowns of Amtrak equipment. My next priority would be hassling with the host railroads to improve their dispatching and eliminating preventable delays on their part. After that, I would try to inculcate a OBS culture that minimizes passengers complaining about nasty, rude OBS employees. After all those, then I might worry about improving the food.
I think Amtrak's management maybe needs to be able to focus on more than one priority at a time. If we're going to wait to resolve all freight-related delays and poor on-board service culture first, none of us will live long enough to see dining service restored on any additional trains.
 
Joined
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Keep in mind that right now, Amtrak is still in "Covid" mode. They are still not letting coach passengers eat in the dining car and other cutbacks are still in effect. Amtrak was unable to cash in on the high gas prices, because of being stuck in "Covid" mode. I'm the most frequent traveler on the Sunset Limited from Texas and sleeping car space is very hard to get since they took off one of our sleepers. We are all waiting for Amtrak to pull out of "covid" mode and get back to "normal" pre-covid mode. They have the equipment and plenty of it. Pay no attention to "equipment shortages". Once something is cut in Amtrak, it's very, very, very hard (if not impossible), to get it back. I make about 10 round trip annually in the sleeping car from Houston to LAX and Amtrak listens to me NO MORE than they will listen to a new first time or less frequent passenger (customer). Amtrak is still the best way to travel, I recommend it to everyone, but the more you ride it, the more you get to know AMTRAK, the way it operates, the inefficiencies, etc.
More like "We can't find enough people who want to work for us" mode.

Or maybe, "We can't figure out how to work the hiring process" mode.
 

TheCrescent

OBS Chief
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
528
More like "We can't find enough people who want to work for us" mode.

Or maybe, "We can't figure out how to work the hiring process" mode.
If Amtrak doesn’t have enough on-board employees, who are the people wearing Amtrak uniforms who take up every table on the cafe car in the Crescent, engaged in conversation, who shoo off passengers who try to sit at a table?
 

Amtrak709

Service Attendant
Joined
May 6, 2021
Messages
206
Location
Columbus, GA
If Amtrak doesn’t have enough on-board employees, who are the people wearing Amtrak uniforms who take up every table on the cafe car in the Crescent, engaged in conversation, who shoo off passengers who try to sit at a table?
Even though W. Graham Claytor Jr. has been gone nearly 30 years, there are times I wish I could conjure up his ghost and spirit to deal with these employees on the Crescent. If Mr. Claytor were alive today and still riding "his train", he would too! I have been on the Crescent nearly 100 times since 1998--mostly ATN-WAS-ATN. The service level decline is sad to say the least.
 

AmtrakFlyer

Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 27, 2016
Messages
135
I think Amtrak's management maybe needs to be able to focus on more than one priority at a time. If we're going to wait to resolve all freight-related delays and poor on-board service culture first, none of us will live long enough to see dining service restored on any additional trains.
I think managements lack of clarity and lack of management for that matter was summed up by Long Distance VP Chester’s Zoom interview with RPA last week. He hemmed and hawed about capacity reductions and couldn’t give a precise timeline for improvements. A few days later the 3rd sleeper returned to the CZ and SWC. If he was aware of it my guess is he would have mentioned and touted it. Perhaps it’s an honest oversight but it’s what we’ve come to expect.
 
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If Amtrak doesn’t have enough on-board employees, who are the people wearing Amtrak uniforms who take up every table on the cafe car in the Crescent, engaged in conversation, who shoo off passengers who try to sit at a table?
I dunno, but the reason Amtrak keeps stating is that they don't have enough people to fix the equipment, and/or they don't have enough OBS to staff the trains.
 

river

Service Attendant
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156
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GRR
I too was on the CONO this past week from Chicago to New Orleans and back in a bedroom (in the sleeper car).

We were supposed to have FLEX dining. Not only did we NOT have a dining car either way--there was NO Amtrak food loaded onto the trains before departure for the sleeper cars either southbound or northbound.

On Southbound trip : We were offered a breakfast sandwich or a muffin for breakfast from the cafe car. For lunch we received a boxed sub, chips, and cookie from a deli in Mississippi they brought in on a stop.

Northbound several days later we departed mid afternoon and flex dining menus were personally handed out to each room by an attendant going through the sleeper as we were departing NOLA.
Well that was an OOPS! Another attendant shortly thereafter came around and said SORRY-- NO supper was loaded onto the train so we will stop and get subs from the same Mississippi deli place as before. I asked for a glass of wine for dinner with my sub. Was told it wasn't available.
For breakfast it was the same muffin or breakfast sandwich offering--which we didn't even bother with.

That's not what I wanted or planned to eat.

I paid for flex dining with a menu --which was not provided. I will plan to contact customer service about this and request a refund for food and services not provided.

Has anyone had experience with this kind of situation?

Well--Finally!!! (See above entry)
TODAY I received a response to my email to Amtrak regarding the (lack of) meals on the north and southbound CONO from Chicago to NOLA. I sent my email on 8/14/22. So more than 3 MONTHS later I receive a nice extended response and a $700 voucher for future travel. So I'm happy with that! I practically forgot about my complaint, but remembered I'd let you know how it all turned out.
 
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Messages
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I believe this is mostly the fault of Amtrak's HR department.

Amtrak cared enough to start running 10-car Regionals on the NEC this past Friday. 🤷‍♂️
Amtrak HR may be a contributing factor but I think it’s mostly the fault of a crappy labor market, lots of turnover and washouts during onboarding, and the lengthy ness of the onboarding process. They’re hiring plenty of people but many aren’t making it through to active service. The percentage of washouts is pretty bad by most accounts.
 

daybeers

Conductor
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Amtrak HR may be a contributing factor but I think it’s mostly the fault of a crappy labor market, lots of turnover and washouts during onboarding, and the lengthy ness of the onboarding process. They’re hiring plenty of people but many aren’t making it through to active service. The percentage of washouts is pretty bad by most accounts.
I know first and second hand that most of these issues are caused by the HR department. Communication is terrible and they drag on the hiring process while expecting candidates to be able to accept an offer quickly and move across the country on the company's schedule. Who has enough savings to sit around for weeks or months on end waiting to be accepted?
 
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I know first and second hand that most of these issues are caused by the HR department. Communication is terrible and they drag on the hiring process while expecting candidates to be able to accept an offer quickly and move across the country on the company's schedule. Who has enough savings to sit around for weeks or months on end waiting to be accepted?
Probably because the particular posting group had a lot of candidates and they are going through a large list of candidates. Just because one individual or another doesn’t get a response for a particular job doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring or that other people aren’t getting called. I’m not saying their HR is efficient but I don’t think that’s the main reason for staff shortages. They’re bringing plenty of people in from the street I think the bigger problem is they are losing a lot of people through attrition as there aren’t a lot of experienced candidates out there in this market and so they have to then open up another class of candidates for the same job over and over again. Blowing the drug testing is also a big contributor to the wash outs.
 
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Probably because the particular posting group had a lot of candidates and they are going through a large list of candidates. Just because one individual or another doesn’t get a response for a particular job doesn’t mean they aren’t hiring or that other people aren’t getting called. I’m not saying their HR is efficient but I don’t think that’s the main reason for staff shortages. They’re bringing plenty of people in from the street I think the bigger problem is they are losing a lot of people through attrition as there aren’t a lot of experienced candidates out there in this market and so they have to then open up another class of candidates for the same job over and over again. Blowing the drug testing is also a big contributor to the wash outs.
Yeah, but there have been reports here of people applying, being told at the interview that they looked good, and then hearing nothing until suddenly being contacted months later for training. That's bad HR.
 

jis

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In line with the title of this thread: does anyone have their ear to the ground (or rail; remember the really old Westerns?) to be able to prognosticate as to whether traditional dining will return to the Capitol Limited by late April? I would like to make some plans but flex meals are a deal breaker.
If we are lucky we might know the answer by late March at the RPA Spring Council Meeting where as usual there will be at least one Senior Amtrak person present. I guess let us see how the traaditional Dining deployment on Silver Service comes along first.
 

fillyjonk

OBS Chief
Joined
Mar 10, 2011
Messages
557
I traveled on the eastern leg of the Texas Eagle (MIN-BNL and back) this past week. Going up, the dining room was (except for the "flex meals") much like old times, with community seating. Coming back, different crew, they spaced us so that each person/couple was alone at a table. They seemed to encourage taking the meals in one's room, but that doesn't work so well for breakfast if your bed's not been made up into seats. The pasta meal is not terrible (but not great) but I tried the pancakes and sausage coming back and ugh, I guess I stick to the "yogurt and oatmeal" choice off the "Continental" breakfast (a sandwich AND muffin on top of that is too much). The TE still seems understaffed; they have one person staffing the dining car as a "public facing" person and one person down in the "kitchen" (not sure what all they do now, microwave the meals I guess? The pancakes and sausage were clearly microwaved, with the weird tough spots microwaved food can get)

I miss the traditional meals but this is the route I take, so I guess "you get what you get and you don't get upset"
 

MARC Rider

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I traveled on the eastern leg of the Texas Eagle (MIN-BNL and back) this past week. Going up, the dining room was (except for the "flex meals") much like old times, with community seating. Coming back, different crew, they spaced us so that each person/couple was alone at a table. They seemed to encourage taking the meals in one's room, but that doesn't work so well for breakfast if your bed's not been made up into seats. The pasta meal is not terrible (but not great) but I tried the pancakes and sausage coming back and ugh, I guess I stick to the "yogurt and oatmeal" choice off the "Continental" breakfast (a sandwich AND muffin on top of that is too much). The TE still seems understaffed; they have one person staffing the dining car as a "public facing" person and one person down in the "kitchen" (not sure what all they do now, microwave the meals I guess? The pancakes and sausage were clearly microwaved, with the weird tough spots microwaved food can get)

I miss the traditional meals but this is the route I take, so I guess "you get what you get and you don't get upset"
Did they let you hang out in the diner-lounge outside of the meal periods? (Like they're supposed to.)
 
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I traveled on the eastern leg of the Texas Eagle (MIN-BNL and back) this past week. Going up, the dining room was (except for the "flex meals") much like old times, with community seating. Coming back, different crew, they spaced us so that each person/couple was alone at a table. They seemed to encourage taking the meals in one's room, but that doesn't work so well for breakfast if your bed's not been made up into seats. The pasta meal is not terrible (but not great) but I tried the pancakes and sausage coming back and ugh, I guess I stick to the "yogurt and oatmeal" choice off the "Continental" breakfast (a sandwich AND muffin on top of that is too much). The TE still seems understaffed; they have one person staffing the dining car as a "public facing" person and one person down in the "kitchen" (not sure what all they do now, microwave the meals I guess? The pancakes and sausage were clearly microwaved, with the weird tough spots microwaved food can get)

I miss the traditional meals but this is the route I take, so I guess "you get what you get and you don't get upset"
I found the pancakes and sausage meal good on the lake shore. I’m guessing the difference is microwaving vs oven (it was clearly not microwaved on the lake shore.)
 

jis

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I found the pancakes and sausage meal good on the lake shore. I’m guessing the difference is microwaving vs oven (it was clearly not microwaved on the lake shore.)
Just for clarification, are you alluding tot rains like the Crescent or the Cardinal as the Microwave usage trains because they do not have ovens in the Lounge cars that they use as Diners too? Presumably all single level trains that have Viewliner Diners should have the crew use ovens to heat the meals, right?

The CCC in the CONO and TE should have convection ovens too AFAIR.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Why would it be different than everything else on Amtrak? The staff do whatever they please.
Yes, good point.
Just for clarification, are you alluding tot rains like the Crescent or the Cardinal as the Microwave usage trains because they do not have ovens in the Lounge cars that they use as Diners too? Presumably all single level trains that have Viewliner Diners should have the crew use ovens to heat the meals, right?

The CCC in the CONO and TE should have convection ovens too AFAIR.
I thought the amfleet II cafes had ovens as well?
 

jis

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Yes, good point.

I thought the amfleet II cafes had ovens as well?
You're probably right. As I seem to recall at least some were fitted with them for specific use on the Cardinal. I lost track of whether all were fitted with the convection ovens and hot plates table like the ones used on the Cardinal were.
 
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