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Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
262
I'm on the Sunset/Texas Eagle from LA to Chicago. I keep hoping for things to improve. Rubbery Jimmy Dean sandwich for breakfast,barely edible pasta for lunch. Dinner will be no better. Tomorrow repeat. There is a Dennys near the San Antonio station. Hopefully there will be enough time to grab breakfast during the layover. Dennys will be like a gourmet restaurant compared to Amtraks flexible dining.

I love riding,but something has to be done about that dreck they are serving. Unfortunately,until full service dining returns(if it ever does) passengers are stuck with this. On the Eastern trains there is no hope.

I doubt any Amtrak executive has ever taken a cross country trip and "experienced" the joy that is flex dining.
Why does it have to be so bad? I've had very good meals in airline first class. Also nicely served. They don't hand you a plastic bag of food served on plastic plates.
 
Joined
Nov 29, 2020
Messages
13
Location
Houston
I fully understand that Amtrak is in a cost-saving mode on steroids. But aren't they always in some kind of a cost-saving mode? As for the terrible "flex dining", food is food. While there are different grades of meat quality (select, choice, and prime) and grades of other food items, I believe a good chef can take the lowest grade of meat and make a tasty, edible, well-balanced meal with it. Be it meat, pasta, vegetables, fruits, etc., it's all in how it's prepared. These so-called top-shelf chefs that Amtrak touts as the creators of these delicious "meals(?)", need to consider another vocation. I think some of the contributors to this thread could vastly improve the offerings on the same Amtrak food budget. Perhaps someone should send a delicious "flex" meal to Amtrak's corporate offices with a note saying "Bon Appetit". I would do it but I'm not riding these days. Not because of COVID, but because we usually take 2-3 day trips and I'm not eating "flex-meals" for one meal, much less 2-3 days. 😱
 

lordsigma

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,049
Why does it have to be so bad? I've had very good meals in airline first class. Also nicely served. They don't hand you a plastic bag of food served on plastic plates.
You most likely won't get a very good meal in airline first class right now on a domestic flight. Yes flexible dining came to the eastern trains before the pandemic and it may involve a fight to get back better meals on long distance afterwards depending on what Amtrak does - but its use out west and other F&B cuts Amtrak has made (cuts to all the cafe cars besides Auto Train and to the Acela first meals) are due to the pandemic and are in line with what airlines have done - airlines have made cuts to onboard amenities like Amtrak. I like everyone hope for improvements once we get back to normal, but until that happens and Amtrak gets an idea of what ridership is going to be going forward we're just all going to have to live with what's being offered for the very few actually travelling right now. If you look at the November report the NEC is bleeding money ($70 million in operating losses so far along with the usual capital costs) and state supported and long distance aren't doing much better. I'm sure subsequent reports will continue this trend. Sadly Amtrak is in survival mode and improving F&B service probably isn't close to the forefront of discussions at the company at this time. It's great to brainstorm as we are here about what improvements they can make when the time comes, but until that time comes it just "ain't going to happen."
 
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20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,257
Location
Oregon Coast
Sadly Amtrak is in survival mode and improving F&B service probably isn't close to the forefront of discussions at the company at this time. It's great to brainstorm as we are here about what improvements they can make when the time comes, but until that time comes it just "ain't going to happen."
Well said. Bill Flynn was very positive and optimistic in his 50th Year for Amtrak message. Things will certainly continue to evolve... but I have to think the food service will evolve away from what it is now given the negative reactions from so many of us. As equipement is upgraded so will food service and handling. Add to that an almost universal desire for fresh and tasty food... and we've just gotta hope we will get there! 🍏🌶🥑


Sandwich.jpg
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
21,590
Location
Austin Texas
Well said. Bill Flynn was very positive and optimistic in his 50th Year for Amtrak message. Things will certainly continue to evolve... but I have to think the food service will evolve away from what it is now given the negative reactions from so many of us. As equipement is upgraded so will food service and handling. Add to that an almost universal desire for fresh and tasty food... and we've just gotta hope we will get there! 🍏🌶🥑


View attachment 20384
Some hope, but well see once we get a handle on the Pandemic and what the opposition in Congress does!!???
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,666
Location
Gator Country Florida
While it is true that Amtrak is trying to work within the constraints of C-19 right now - that does not provide an excuse for the dismal "flex-dining food", since it was already being served on the east coast trains well before the pandemic.

When much better meals can be purchased from Walmart for less than I have seen quoted as what Amtrak pays for the flex-meals ... there is no excuse, not even the pandemic, for the poor quality and lack of variety meals Amtrak is serving.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,257
Location
Oregon Coast
While it is true that Amtrak is trying to work within the constraints of C-19 right now - that does not provide an excuse for the dismal "flex-dining food", since it was already being served on the east coast trains well before the pandemic.

When much better meals can be purchased from Walmart for less than I have seen quoted as what Amtrak pays for the flex-meals ... there is no excuse, not even the pandemic, for the poor quality and lack of variety meals Amtrak is serving.
Well said! The entire flex meal concept is totally unacceptable... it is not fresh but processed, then frozen, then reheated in such a way that the plastic melts around the food creating carcinogenic risks, and the steady diet of such food product with so much sodium and fat is hard on the digestion system.

The flex food concept needs to be removed from the eastern trains, the LD trains, and the Acela 1st class meals... when they put that puddle of fatty beef, polenta, and gray string beans in a somewhat fancier dish, I gasped! Yes, on Acela 1!

BTW... Anyone want my brownie?
Screen Shot 2021-01-22 at 4.01.27 PM.png
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
185
Would it be so difficult to serve cheesecake for dessert? Aren't there any refrigerators on board? I skip the salad and brownie. I remember when meal time was something to look forward to. I'll be changing trains tomorrow in Chicago. Eating at one of the facilities before I continue will be an upgrade.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
3,125
Would it be so difficult to serve cheesecake for dessert? Aren't there any refrigerators on board? I skip the salad and brownie. I remember when meal time was something to look forward to. I'll be changing trains tomorrow in Chicago. Eating at one of the facilities before I continue will be an upgrade.
You’re tired of the choice between brownie and brownie? Shocking. :) haha
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
21,590
Location
Austin Texas
Would it be so difficult to serve cheesecake for dessert? Aren't there any refrigerators on board? I skip the salad and brownie. I remember when meal time was something to look forward to. I'll be changing trains tomorrow in Chicago. Eating at one of the facilities before I continue will be an upgrade.
Hopefully there will be places Open around Union Station during you're layover!!!???
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
185
That rib place is open as well as McDonalds and Jersey Mikes subs are open. All three are a welcome break from Amtraks "flexible dining" which is an oxymoron. You still have to make a dinner reservation and I would hardly call it "dining".
 

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,626
You most likely won't get a very good meal in airline first class right now on a domestic flight. Yes flexible dining came to the eastern trains before the pandemic and it may involve a fight to get back better meals on long distance afterwards depending on what Amtrak does - but its use out west and other F&B cuts Amtrak has made (cuts to all the cafe cars besides Auto Train and to the Acela first meals) are due to the pandemic and are in line with what airlines have done - airlines have made cuts to onboard amenities like Amtrak. I like everyone hope for improvements once we get back to normal, but until that happens and Amtrak gets an idea of what ridership is going to be going forward we're just all going to have to live with what's being offered for the very few actually travelling right now. If you look at the November report the NEC is bleeding money ($70 million in operating losses so far along with the usual capital costs) and state supported and long distance aren't doing much better. I'm sure subsequent reports will continue this trend. Sadly Amtrak is in survival mode and improving F&B service probably isn't close to the forefront of discussions at the company at this time. It's great to brainstorm as we are here about what improvements they can make when the time comes, but until that time comes it just "ain't going to happen."
They are in survival mode because they do not have the customers. So what do they do? They cut back on trains to reduce the chance of having those customers and they serve food bad enough to discourage those they have. How many executives did they furlough since they don't need them all for a reduced operation?
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
262
You most likely won't get a very good meal in airline first class right now on a domestic flight. Yes flexible dining came to the eastern trains before the pandemic and it may involve a fight to get back better meals on long distance afterwards depending on what Amtrak does - but its use out west and other F&B cuts Amtrak has made (cuts to all the cafe cars besides Auto Train and to the Acela first meals) are due to the pandemic and are in line with what airlines have done - airlines have made cuts to onboard amenities like Amtrak. I like everyone hope for improvements once we get back to normal, but until that happens and Amtrak gets an idea of what ridership is going to be going forward we're just all going to have to live with what's being offered for the very few actually travelling right now. If you look at the November report the NEC is bleeding money ($70 million in operating losses so far along with the usual capital costs) and state supported and long distance aren't doing much better. I'm sure subsequent reports will continue this trend. Sadly Amtrak is in survival mode and improving F&B service probably isn't close to the forefront of discussions at the company at this time. It's great to brainstorm as we are here about what improvements they can make when the time comes, but until that time
\comes it just "ain't going to happen."

I have no idea what airlines are doing now. I haven't flown since Covid started. Do you know for a fact that they are serving inferior meals in First? If they are serving any meals at all, why would they have downgraded to something like Amtrak quality meals? Anyway, as you said, Amtrak dropped dining cars before then. Actually the box meals they served then were much better than what they are now serving. You really have missed my point, however. Amtrak MUST serve meals on LD trains. They have chosen to serve very low grade meals. I don't care if they bring back the dining-cars. The food was a lot better than what you get now but it was nothing special. I'd be satisfied with the equivalent of airline First Class quality served in my room. This would be a far more economical solution for Amtrak and I fail to see why they can't manage that right now.
 

lordsigma

Conductor
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Joined
Sep 15, 2017
Messages
1,049
I have no idea what airlines are doing now. I haven't flown since Covid started. Do you know for a fact that they are serving inferior meals in First? If they are serving any meals at all, why would they have downgraded to something like Amtrak quality meals? Anyway, as you said, Amtrak dropped dining cars before then. Actually the box meals they served then were much better than what they are now serving. You really have missed my point, however. Amtrak MUST serve meals on LD trains. They have chosen to serve very low grade meals. I don't care if they bring back the dining-cars. The food was a lot better than what you get now but it was nothing special. I'd be satisfied with the equivalent of airline First Class quality served in my room. This would be a far more economical solution for Amtrak and I fail to see why they can't manage that right now.
I haven't missed your point. I agree that they need to improve things eventually - while I don't necessarily agree that the flex meals are inedible (I personally can tolerate them at least on a one night journey) - they could certainly be better. I'm just a realist - the few of us taking the risk to ride a train right now are going to have to live with it - and it's not just long distance passengers dealing with inferior food as has been pointed out - I rode a Regional last week to see the new train hall and had a very limited selection in the cafe car - you basically can get a blueberry muffin or jimmy dean sandwich for breakfast (the exact same sandwich and muffin served in flex dining) - and for lunch and dinner a microwave pizza, burger, vegan burger, or hot dog. The rest of it is snacks and junk food. They simply aren't going to make food and beverage improvements in the current climate because no one is riding - survival is basically just running the bare minimum of service to get through the crisis until people start returning. Most airlines domestically from what I've read have either gone to nothing (to discourage removal of masks on board) or to some sort of prepackaged deal or snack box. You may still find a decent meal on a long haul overseas flight depending on the airline, but domestically you're probably out of luck. Once we get to the other side and Amtrak has to start building back up - I agree the F&B on the long distance needs to be improved - the western traditional dining should return and Amtrak should do a little more homework on trying to improve the situation in the east and likewise I hope they bring back fresher choices to the cafes and full meals to Acela 1st. But none of that will happen while cases and hospitalizations are where we are and most states have bans on discretionary travel.
 
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Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
262
I haven't missed your point. I agree that they need to improve things eventually - while I don't necessarily agree that the flex meals are inedible (I personally can tolerate them at least on a one night journey) - they could certainly be better. I'm just a realist - the few of us taking the risk to ride a train right now are going to have to live with it - and it's not just long distance passengers dealing with inferior food as has been pointed out - I rode a Regional last week to see the new train hall and had a very limited selection in the cafe car - you basically can get a blueberry muffin or jimmy dean sandwich for breakfast (the exact same sandwich and muffin served in flex dining) - and for lunch and dinner a microwave pizza, burger, vegan burger, or hot dog. The rest of it is snacks and junk food. They simply aren't going to make food and beverage improvements in the current climate because no one is riding - survival is basically just running the bare minimum of service to get through the crisis until people start returning. Most airlines domestically from what I've read have either gone to nothing (to discourage removal of masks on board) or to some sort of prepackaged deal or snack box. You may still find a decent meal on a long haul overseas flight depending on the airline, but domestically you're probably out of luck. Once we get to the other side and Amtrak has to start building back up - I agree the F&B on the long distance needs to be improved - the western traditional dining should return and Amtrak should do a little more homework on trying to improve the situation in the east and likewise I hope they bring back fresher choices to the cafes and full meals to Acela 1st. But none of that will happen while cases and hospitalizations are where we are and most states have bans on discretionary travel.
I did not say that the flex meals are inedible. Like most others here I believe they are very poor quality and unhealthy. I understand the need to reduce the quantity on regional trains but I see no justification for poor quality. Just buy less. Again, I do not know what is happening in airline First Class and you have not come up with any facts. Maybe they have eliminated meals in First Class on long distance routes. I don't know. I don't see, however, how they can do this on trips to Europe etc. Maybe some readers here can tell us based on their experience. No meals in First Class? If there are meals have the airlines dropped the quality to Amtrak standards? Anyway my point is that even during a crisis Amtrak can offer better in-room meals. Restaurants have not dropped their standards due to the crisis, have they? They just serve far fewer people. As for dining-cars, they cost Amtrak too much so the solution is to provide quality room service meals. Why not start now?
 

lordsigma

Conductor
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Messages
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They could offer better meals sure, but where is the motive to do so right now? As someone who has travelled during the pandemic - very very very few are riding. If Amtrak brought back traditional dining with chefs right now system wide it would have very little impact (if any) on ridership and would simply increase costs. I do have major concerns about the future of passenger rail - but food and beverage is sort of an ancillary thing right now. Business travel has been annihilated by Covid and may never return to what it was with the advent of zoom and other video conferencing. That and other trends established will have major effects. When I see Amtrak with $70 million in operating losses on the northeast corridor on top of its capital costs I fear for the future of all passenger rail. I’m not saying food and beverage doesn’t matter but it’s sort of a little thing in the grand scheme of things right now.
 
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Cal

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
220
Location
Greater Los Angeles Area
I am a relatively new member so if this topic has been discussed, please disregard it. Sidney recently asked the question, "Does Amtrak know how their customers feel about Flex dining?". Good question. I know I have let them know how terrible it is. Others have described it as "mystery meat", "vomit", "had to throw in the trash", etc.


In this Pandemic age, tasty ready-to-eat microwavable entrees are readily available from various sources (meals by mail, grocery stores, and restaurants, etc.). There is no excuse for serving terrible tasting food on Amtrak. Unless of course, that's the goal. They have to know the food they are serving is terrible based on reviews. Is it because of the cost to Amtrak? Wouldn't this be an opportune time to try different recipes or contract an outside supplier?

I’ve been riding Amtrak since 1979. I don't ride Amtrak for the food. But dining is part of the experience and cost. I have not, nor will I take another trip until either the Flex dining food improves or the full-service diner returns. If Amtrak is going to charge a hefty price for sleeper space and include meals, then the food ought to be edible.


With this in mind, I would think a smart food truck operator could do well meeting the train at longer stops near a mealtime. The only question, how fast could the truck get the food out to customers who have a time constraint?
Flex dining was a thing before COVID on eastern routes, if you didn't know. They did it due to cost cutting I believe.
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
262
They could offer better meals sure, but where is the motive to do so right now? As someone who has travelled during the pandemic - very very very few are riding. If Amtrak brought back traditional dining with chefs right now system wide it would have very little impact (if any) on ridership and would simply increase costs. I do have major concerns about the future of passenger rail - but food and beverage is sort of an ancillary thing right now. Business travel has been annihilated by Covid and may never return to what it was with the advent of zoom and other video conferencing. That and other trends established will have major effects. When I see Amtrak with $70 million in operating losses on the northeast corridor on top of its capital costs I fear for the future of all passenger rail. I’m not saying food and beverage doesn’t matter but it’s sort of a little thing in the grand scheme of things right now.
Yes I know food is not a priority now but why does Covid have to be an excuse for not making some improvements? I am not suggesting a return to the dining-car. I think that is gone forever except for some private luxury train operations. I'm just saying that they could improve the quality of in-room meals. Is that such a huge task?
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
185
I have ridden several times over the last year. There are quite a few people riding. I just got off the Texas Eagle. Walking through the Coaches every seat was occupied single travelers with two seats to themselves and families. At lunch in the dining car every table was full,even though there should have been spacing. On an Acela in November every seat pair was used and the sleepers seem full on the last few trains I was on. On the EB last week every roomette in my car was full. Only one bedroom was used. Could have been the outrageous price.




Three days on the Sunset/TE was tough with those flexible meals. I understand we are in this pedemic but there has to be better food,short of full dining to serve to passengers who pay a premium in first class. I had the shrimp in lobster sauce last night. The shrimp were almost inedible.I m now at Chicago Union Station. Having a sub at Jersey Mikes is better than anything on their flex menu.

Again it's called flexible dining. We had to make reservations for lunch and dinner..and it's hardly dining..
and how about something besides their "specialty" dessert..the brownie. Thanks to Anderson for foisting this crap on travelers. Never have I seen such a positive spin on a huge downgrade in food that has had such negative response.
 
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