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Amtrak Dining

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jiml

Conductor
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
2,554
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
The Marriott and Holiday Inn were probably owned by the same company if they were right next door. I’m not traveling right now but on flyertalk there’s quite a bit of complaining how hotel company’s are letting franshises get away with cutting anything they want in the name of covid.
My suspicion as well.👍 As a longtime Flyertalk member I'm well aware of what you're saying. Marriott recently restored our "benefits" but many (if not most) franchisees are not yet complying.
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
198
On the Empire Builder. Dissapointed the same four items are still on the menu. No additions,no variety. The "innovative," concept of flex dining is that you could eat whenever you want. They are still taking reservations. Only difference is you are seated alone and meals are no longer something to look forward to.

i noticed the Sightseer car is all tables. Is this the norm on all the trains? Glad I got a Jersey Mike"s sub in Chicago before boarding. Probably the best meal I'll have on my trip. Sad.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,315
Location
Oregon Coast
Food and travel have always been part of the equation for glamour and excitement that makes the 'getting there' just as important as the destination. There is a lot of talk and speculation on this forum about accommodation and food on the services that are available to us as Americans. And much has been said about forward progress which may cancel out what we remember about the old American traditions.

It is interesting to see how progress and service are advancing in countries and places that have kept rail travel technologically up to date. It seems that tourist trains are the ones to provide gourmet meals... for fares that are... let's just say... as high in the sky as those jets up there.

But in Europe and other places where rail continues to evolve and improve, passengers enjoy reasonably priced meals which they pay for in the restaurant cars... whether they travel in sleeper or seats. The ever popular bento boxes in the orient provide excellent cuisine at reasonable price... and can be picked up at the station before boarding.

Right now many of us are just sitting at home trying to stay safe from covid... but as we dream of a future that involves travel, there are interesting food trends that may unfold upon the rails. As we speculate and share interesting points of view, we don't need to tie ourselves down the the trends of the past as we look for modern alternatives. Many good articles have been written about cuisine on the rails.


 

PaTrainFan

Service Attendant
Joined
May 1, 2017
Messages
209
Location
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Remember the old days when meals were served to all passengers in all classes on virtually every flight of any length? When did that go out, 30 years ago? The airline industry radically changed and people are still flying. Train travel is a much different animal, of course, and is more than just transportation from A to B for many of us. "Experiential" is the previous CEO called it. We all hope Amtrak gets some sense and returns to some measure of what it once had, but realististically that isn't likely in the near future. Unfortnately,the best we can hope for is some incremental improvement with the gruel that is served now.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,658
The Marriott and Holiday Inn were probably owned by the same company if they were right next door. I’m not traveling right now but on flyertalk there’s quite a bit of complaining how hotel company’s are letting franshises get away with cutting anything they want in the name of covid.
Except prices. A lot of Marriott hotels have instituted a fee to cover advertising.

At a Residence Inn in Atlanta, they now charge $12.50 a day for parking. Before Covid, it was free.

I'm sure other properties are instituting changes like this - and it's doubtful they will stop even when Covid is a thing of the past. Just like the airlines with their "fee for everything so our prices look lower", the hotels will come up with more and more of this. No room cleaning during your stay unless you pay an additional fee. Booking charge for calling for reservation. Breakfast optional at extra cost. A/C usage fee. Parking fees in the suburbs for those wishing to park in "inner lot". Luggage cart rental fee.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,315
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Oregon Coast
Except prices. A lot of Marriott hotels have instituted a fee to cover advertising.

At a Residence Inn in Atlanta, they now charge $12.50 a day for parking. Before Covid, it was free.

I'm sure other properties are instituting changes like this - and it's doubtful they will stop even when Covid is a thing of the past. Just like the airlines with their "fee for everything so our prices look lower", the hotels will come up with more and more of this. No room cleaning during your stay unless you pay an additional fee. Booking charge for calling for reservation. Breakfast optional at extra cost. A/C usage fee. Parking fees in the suburbs for those wishing to park in "inner lot". Luggage cart rental fee.
Yet... they will then say that you only pay for what you need. We've discussed deception with the hotel industry on this forum. And as we do quality depreciates and prices go up.

Amtrak is still and at this time a government run operation. And like the postal system where postage keeps going up and delivery times are taking longer... this and 'all of the above' may happen to rail travel. Pay more and get less.

In countries where rail travel is improving people do pay more; meals are seldom included... and as a result, kiosks and food shops have sprung up around rail stations in large centers selling 'to go' food for travelers to pick up before they get on trains. Perhaps... if the LD concepts survives in America, entrepreneurs will spring up along frequently stopped at stations. This actually does exist at a few Amtrak stations; and passengers pay substantially more for the 'convenience.'

In the end, most will admit that eating three substantial meals while sitting on a train for several days is probably just as unhealthy as the flex meals they are now serving. :oops:

Below... interesting site suggesting bringing your own food aboard is best... pic of a bento box for purchase at a rail station in the orient.




japan-ekiben-station-meal-1021x640.jpg
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Jan 26, 2020
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Location
Oregon Coast
Yet... they will then say that you only pay for what you need. We've discussed deception with the hotel industry on this forum. And as we do quality depreciates and prices go up.

Amtrak is still and at this time a government run operation. And like the postal system where postage keeps going up and delivery times are taking longer... this and 'all of the above' may happen to rail travel. Pay more and get less.

In countries where rail travel is improving people do pay more; meals are seldom included... and as a result, kiosks and food shops have sprung up around rail stations in large centers selling 'to go' food for travelers to pick up before they get on trains. Perhaps... if the LD concepts survives in America, entrepreneurs will spring up along frequently stopped at stations. This actually does exist at a few Amtrak stations; and passengers pay substantially more for the 'convenience.'

In the end, most will admit that eating three substantial meals while sitting on a train for several days is probably just as unhealthy as the flex meals they are now serving. :oops:

Below... interesting site suggesting bringing your own food aboard is best... pic of a bento box for purchase at a rail station in the orient.




View attachment 20305
Oops... here's the online blog about brining your own meals aboard an Amtrak train...

 

tgstubbs1

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
384
Restaurants are struggling now, they surely would like any opportunity to increase their business.
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
21,618
Location
Austin Texas
The Marriott and Holiday Inn were probably owned by the same company if they were right next door. I’m not traveling right now but on flyertalk there’s quite a bit of complaining how hotel company’s are letting franshises get away with cutting anything they want in the name of covid.
How much are they cutting the Prices, such as what Amtrak is doing, No Wait------
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,315
Location
Oregon Coast
How much are they cutting the Prices, such as what Amtrak is doing, No Wait------
Several factors come into play... competition and demand are key to what is offered at what quality and what price. Another factor is customer frequency... which would drive more businesses to produce better quality at lower price.

It's interesting to note that when an urban rail system is constructed, businesses spring up along its route... along with high density housing.

Sooo... it seems that LD travel and Corridor travel such as in CALI and the NEC differ in development and opportunities.

LD in the USA and Canada ... and perhaps the Soviet Union... are in a category of their own... it will be interesting to see what happens to each after covid subsides.

It would also be interesting to see how forum members visualize the future of LD.

 

jruff001

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 23, 2020
Messages
113
I meant serving passengers. I’ve had sca’s brag that they weren’t serving Amtrak coffee for example.

I’ve gotten mints, candy, cookies, all sorts of snacks from SCA’s.
That really shouldn't be allowed. So many people here complain about inconsistent Amtrak service, and things like this only make that problem worse.

Plus, there are food safety / liability issues if someone claims they got sick from something a crew member brought on board.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,658
In the end, most will admit that eating three substantial meals while sitting on a train for several days is probably just as unhealthy as the flex meals they are now serving. :oops:

That's kind of misleading in that eating the three traditional meals (even if not being selective about what you choose) may be unhealthy to eat but a couple of days like that don't really hurt one long term unless you kept up the quantity and sat around like riding on a train for months on end. On the OTHER HAND, they don't tast like the garbage meals now served and you had a much bigger variety (different choices at lunch than at dinner makes a big difference). You HAD the opportunity to pick and choose (the lunch salad with chicken and minimal Italian dressing is quite healthy compared to anything "flex".) There is nothing enjoyable about eating the food or tasting it.

"Flex" offers nothing healthy and you have no choice at 2 of the meals to eat healthier since everything is processed junk jumbled together and if you don't want all the carbs, you can't get more of the proteins or veggies (you didn't need more in traditional as you got a lot already).
Worse is the third meal. Breakfast is 100% unadulterated sugar (no unsweetened oatmeal, even) except for a mush-microwaved egg McGarbage).
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
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Messages
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Location
Oregon Coast
That's kind of misleading in that eating the three traditional meals (even if not being selective about what you choose) may be unhealthy to eat but a couple of days like that don't really hurt one long term unless you kept up the quantity and sat around like riding on a train for months on end. On the OTHER HAND, they don't tast like the garbage meals now served and you had a much bigger variety (different choices at lunch than at dinner makes a big difference). You HAD the opportunity to pick and choose (the lunch salad with chicken and minimal Italian dressing is quite healthy compared to anything "flex".) There is nothing enjoyable about eating the food or tasting it.

"Flex" offers nothing healthy and you have no choice at 2 of the meals to eat healthier since everything is processed junk jumbled together and if you don't want all the carbs, you can't get more of the proteins or veggies (you didn't need more in traditional as you got a lot already).
Worse is the third meal. Breakfast is 100% unadulterated sugar (no unsweetened oatmeal, even) except for a mush-microwaved egg McGarbage).
I agree with you on the flex meal shamefully unhealthy and disgusting food.

For the other... it depends on how much one travels on the train as to food preferences when the food is good and the restaurant is open. Although no one knows for sure how things will actually pan out, I personally would like to see the travel fares come down in return for pay as you go food... with the option of bringing aboard your own food... and / or picking things up at stations along the way.

Can we all agree that if it's a responsible management decision based upon the welfare of the passengers, we would all be adaptable to a new and more cost effective way of handling LD rail products?
 

MrNews

Train Attendant
Joined
Jul 26, 2011
Messages
24
Location
Tampa Bay, FL
Oops... here's the online blog about brining your own meals aboard an Amtrak train...
Some great suggestions! My last round-trip on Silver Star (TPA - EWR, Sept '19), we brought many of the suggested snacks. Also some home-made sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pretzels. I bought a collapsible silicone electric water kettle (16oz, took 3 mins to boiling), which was great for making soup, tea, hot chocolate, enjoyed in the privacy and "cozy" comfort of our roomette. Good for 24-hour journeys, but multiple-day trips might be trickier to arrange self-feeding.

Re buying food at the station to bring onboard: one of the best meals we ever had were large dinner salads purchased at PHL and eaten that evening. Not sure of the vendor, and this was several years ago, but it was memorably delicious.
 

Sidney

Service Attendant
Joined
Jul 12, 2020
Messages
198
Sometimes I will leave out of Philly. I usually get a sub from Jersey Mikes and a soft pretzel from the Philly pretzel stand. Chicago also has a Jersey Mikes. I used them a few days ago. With the substandard food on Amtrak I wanted to get that extra food,and usually I am in a sleeper
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
1,703
Location
Gator Country Florida
I have seen several articles and comment about bringing food on Amtrak and just what to bring and include things like a heating device for water, wine and cheese and a variety of other "private comforts". Most of these are about what to bring when you travel in a sleeper.

How about some articles for those who ride coach 🙏
 

tgstubbs1

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
384
I have seen several articles and comment about bringing food on Amtrak and just what to bring and include things like a heating device for water, wine and cheese and a variety of other "private comforts". Most of these are about what to bring when you travel in a sleeper.

How about some articles for those who ride coach 🙏
Other than the no alcohol rule, can't coach passengers eat the same snacks as sleeper passengers?

Maybe the soup or hot chocolate would be a challenge but if you are seated near a plug and the cord can reach your fold down tray you could probably heat them, or get hot water from the lounge.
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
Messages
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Location
Gator Country Florida
I don't know how it would work ...

I I am in a sleeper and decide I want to boil water in a cup with my immersion heater - who's going to know with my door shut. However, if I am sitting in the aisle seat with a cord stretched over to the window area where it plugs in and have an immersion heater sitting in a cup of water I am trying to boil - will the attendant allow that? Even if I am sitting at a table in the café car ... will they let me sit in plain sight making a hot cup of soup, coffee or hot chocolate if I need to boil water?
 

tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
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Location
Spring Creek, NC
It’s a terrible idea to boil your own water on a moving train.
I agree that an immersion heater is unreasonably risky. I travel with a collapsible silicon 2-cup kettle that's stable and enclosed. If you don't fill it full, I think it's pretty safe. The only dicey moment is pouring the boiling water into my travel thermos. Best to do that when the train's stopped.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
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Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,658
Taking your own food onboard for an overnight or for daytime is easy. We used to do it for overnight back when meals were optional and we had two kids and wanted to take a high priced (for us) bedroom. We'd go to the diner for one meal and the kids would get sandwiches which they preferred to diner meals as they could have what they liked not what was available. We still carry on meals for all coach travel.
However, on a multi-night trip, it is not reasonable as we just can't carry that extra with us and it's not worth it to us to make that effort (or wasn't with traditional meals). With "flex", we will have to reconsider including having food delivered to the train, carrying meals including MREs to heat them, etc.
 

IndyLions

OBS Chief
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
541
Location
Brownsburg IN
I have seen several articles and comment about bringing food on Amtrak and just what to bring and include things like a heating device for water, wine and cheese and a variety of other "private comforts". Most of these are about what to bring when you travel in a sleeper.

How about some articles for those who ride coach 🙏
When I’m traveling coach (on a plane) or even in a sleeper - and I need to carry on food - my first thought is smell.

In shared or confined spaces - the last thing you want is smelly food - even if it tastes great. Your neighbors might not think so - and heck you might not think so either 30 minutes later.

Most desserts are great, as are mild versions of charcuterie plates and a variety of crackers. Fresh fruit - strawberries, blueberries - but not if it is approaching overripe status. And avoid sticky fruit like pineapple. That juice gets everywhere.

No stinky cheese, no spicy meats, never any fish of any kind, no matter how mild.

Personally, I like cold pizza and cold fried chicken - but if there’s a chance it’s really greasy - I’ll pass on that around others but might take the risk in a sleeper on my own.

As others have said, heating appliances of any kind are a baaaad idea. Someone could get hurt - and it could be you...
 

Devil's Advocate

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Joined
May 24, 2010
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Location
Texas
When Flex Dining rolled out with exactly one hot offering, the battle cry on this forum was “All we need is more hot food choices for dinner!” When there was nothing hot but oatmeal for breakfast - it was “For the love of Pete - can someone give me a breakfast sandwich!” Now it’s - “What I really meant was - powdered or hard boiled eggs just like I can get at Fairfield Inn! Now that would be the bomb!”
If you want to make broad claims like this then start with a neutral poll rather than a series of fake quotes. While the minimum standard at a Hampton is quite low it's still higher than the minimum flex standard on Amtrak.

Remember the old days when meals were served to all passengers in all classes on virtually every flight of any length? When did that go out, 30 years ago? The airline industry radically changed and people are still flying.
I've yet to see an Amtrak-length flight without coach meals included, despite most flights departing airports with several meal options while Amtrak typically departs from stations with no meaningful services.

Perhaps... if the LD concepts survives in America, entrepreneurs will spring up along frequently stopped at stations. This actually does exist at a few Amtrak stations; and passengers pay substantially more for the 'convenience.'
I wouldn't want to risk my money making food that would spoil if the two trains per day ran too late. That leaves more basic pantry items that can survive disruptions. Bento makers don't have to worry about this in Japan because the trains are frequent, dependable, and operate during mealtime hours. The other option is to prearrange fresh meals so the vendor is covered regardless of what the train does but Amtrak has apparently ended those contracts.
 
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tgstubbs1

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Messages
384
Hopefully Amtrak will make some big changes to the menu someday, but my guess it won't be very soon. Until then it looks like alternative or even stopgap measures are a finicky passengers' best bet.

I agree about immersion heaters. They are very compact but almost a little dangerous. They will burn out in a split second if run dry. When I was in college my roommates' electric teapot exploded when it ran dry.

These devices are usually at least 300w, which makes them relatively fast. I have looked at thermoelectric devices that can heat and cool. While they are extremely simple and reliable and used in aerospace and high tech devices for cooling they apparently don't heat as well. On the other hand they typically use only 36w, almost a tenth of the power.
 
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