Amtrak Dining

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Sidney

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I'l be using the rail.pass in August and September. I would have gladly purchased a meal from the dining car,but that is not to be. I do have a sleeper in addition to the pass,so I will partake for four days.
 

neroden

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No no. Don't get me wrong. I was not worried about the specific term. I was merely trying to understand what it meant in this context.

So all Eastern LD trains are orphan trains then, including the two Silvers, the Cardinal and the LSL and Capitol Ltd., in addition to the ones you listed in your earlier message. Got it.
I've been describing them as "red headed stepchildren" based on the way Amtrak mistreats the eastern so-called-long-distance trains versus their actual business potential -- so "orphan" seems appropriate too.
 

Ferroequinologist

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My Cunard experience was a while ago but the elevators were very crowded around meal time - which was my point. I know some five minute covid tests aren’t accurate.

I was pleased on the two roundtrips I’ve taken on Amtrak during covid. The DownEaster was 50% AND because the cafe was off limits, had food/wine delivered by wait staff. I as a coach passenger tip 20% but on that trip 40%. I heard sleeper class don’t tip well. On Cunard it was 5% tip of the room cost and separate for wait staff. On an $1100 train fare $5 that some are leaving is too cheap- especially for the pandemic.

CVS sells a $28 Covid19 test. I might buy one even though they’re not that accurate - but might give some assurance when I arrive at my destination. Coach is 100% with mask on unless consuming food or beverages - AGAIN 100%. I don’t think the dining car should be 100% either.

If the dining car is set to 50% limit AND only 25% full - as democratic as Amtrak normal is, the 25% that’s empty should be filled by coach passengers who want to dine in the dining car.
I doubt that Cunard will allow crowded elevators nowadays.
Regarding tips, Cunard automatically add a gratuity to your bill which you can have removed if you want. By adding the gratuity everyone gets something. That includes the people who work in the laundry and behind the scenes. Without this system they would be ignored. Many passengers give extra trips to their cabin steward, waiters and possibly wine steward. Just curious, how much do you think is appropriate per night for a sleeping car attendant?
 

zephyr17

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I doubt that Cunard will allow crowded elevators nowadays.
I don't know. I was recently at a hotel where they had an elevator rule that only members of one party could use the elevator together.

They did absolutely nothing to enforce it and it was thoroughly ignored.

They did enforce a mask requirement in public areas, though.

It was a well known, high end brand.
 

Rambling Robert

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I'l be using the rail.pass in August and September. I would have gladly purchased a meal from the dining car,but that is not to be. I do have a sleeper in addition to the pass,so I will partake for four days.
On.some layovers around 30 minutes or so I plan to schedule food delivery to the train. Does this work? I’d much rather the dining car.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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The garlic and herb crusted cod filet with fresh lemon and tartar sauce. Brought to my room with out the lemon or tartar sauce. Server on a very short Texas Eagle (4 cars). Was a disappointment, fish was dry and the rice and carrots were of a microwave version. Not sure if the CCC has the same ability to cook food as the newer Viewliner 2 Dinners. This meal was much more of a TV dinner type, and unlike the LSL, it was served without a roll.
 
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cocojacoby

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On eastern trains I suppose things would not be so bad if Amtrak kept the "First Class" dining for sleeper passengers (who are paying much more money) and also kept a decent Amcafe/Lounge car attached for coach passengers to buy meals and drinks and eat there like civilized human beings. Also maybe the option to purchase better meals at a dining car take-out window and bring them back to the Amcafe/Lounge car.

But Amtrak still seems adamant on going with one food service car which means coach passengers have no where to eat at a table but must go back to their seat to eat. I find that unacceptable. My seatmate may not appreciate the smell of my shrimps in lobster sauce or may even be allergic to something I am easting. Plus can you imagine the odor of all those dirty plates and flatware sitting in the trash containers for the day?

The one food service car thing really bothers me.
 
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joelkfla

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The garlic and herb crusted cod filet with fresh lemon and tartar sauce. Brought to my room with out the lemon or tartar sauce. Server on a very short Texas Eagle (4 cars). Was a disappointment, fish was dry and the rice and carrots were of a microwave version. Not sure if the CCC has the same ability to cook food as the newer Viewliner 2 Dinners. This meal was much more of a TV dinner type, and unlike the LSL, server without a roll.
Aside from the copious rice, I need a map to figure out what's what on that plate. :)
 

BCL

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I was confused because I saw some message saying that there would be no dining cars until later in June 2021, but when I was on the CS yesterday they definitely had a dining car. It was also weird too as we ended up on Capitol Corridor which had a cafe car announcement, although I saw something saying it hadn't been restored.

We walked into the dining car and although it was closed, there were definitely dining car attendants. Or was this just for the flexible dining service where they would need the car to do the cooking?

Service Change
Traditional dining service has been temporarily suspended through June 22, 2021 on all routes with the exception of the Auto Train. Prior to June 23, customers in private rooms will be offered flexible dining service; Coach customers will be offered Café service. Visit the informational pages for flexible dining and Café service for more details and sample menus.​
 

zephyr17

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No train lost its dining car, including the Starlight. They just served flex meals in it.

Not sure about the staffing levels during flex, but I understand they were reduced. I don't know, but perhaps some of those attendants were recalled from furlough in anticipation of the return of full dining service.
 

Just-Thinking-51

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Did not get to try the chicken marsala for lunch on the Texas Eagle. The LSA was not serving lunch into 1300 hours, deliver to your room at 1230 hours. The train arrived 53 minutes early to Fort Worth. It would of been interesting to compare the two. The guy on the LSL was a 25 year veteran, with a newer equipped gallery. The Texas Eagle was staff with recently recalled employees, with older equipment.

Anyways in recap it’s eatable.
 

crescent-zephyr

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We walked into the dining car and although it was closed, there were definitely dining car attendants. Or was this just for the flexible dining service where they would need the car to do the cooking?
I think the superliner trains still had an LSA and a crew member in the kitchen. Of course that means they could have kept the chef but that’s another debate.

You probably saw other Amtrak staff hanging out... the diner and cafe cars seem to be crew lounges more than anything else on Amtrak.
 

Rambling Robert

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If they book dinner reservations when you book a seat - will it work - that’d be great! Realizing no guarantee.

OCTOBER 2020/Coach
pics of the DownEaster food delivered from Cafe (closed) to my seat by contracted wait staff. Burgers were tasty with a Merlot and the Red Hots (hotdogs) that’s a Maine classic and the Whoopie Pie is the official state snack.

Parked at Wells ME Transpotation Center - literally on interstate. I-95 - you can park up to 4 days free or longer with station okay.

I talked about this trip for weeks.
 

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Mailliw

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Back to the subject of dining; hypothetically if Amtrak were to offer a sleeper fare option w/o meals included how big a discount would there need to be for it to be worthwhile?
 

zephyr17

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Well, I was riding when Amtrak started including meals. The fares rose roughly by the costs of two meals per room for all meal periods during the trip segment when they started it. The meals were never "complimentary"

I'd subtract the same about the same amount, call it $90/full day (20x2 dinner, 15x2 lunch, 10x2 breakfast).
 

Bostonjetset

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Back to the subject of dining; hypothetically if Amtrak were to offer a sleeper fare option w/o meals included how big a discount would there need to be for it to be worthwhile?
I would say at least a couple hundred less. Not just for the cost of the food but for the inconvenience of having to carry your own. I hate when transportation companies try to “decouple” formerly included items from their fares and say it is so people have a “choice to pay for what they use”. It’s BS unless prices are otherwise fixed. With “dynamic” pricing different people could already be paying hundreds of dollars different. (i.e. Passenger A pays $500 with meals included but Passenger B pays $600 with no meals based on when it was booked and the demand?) It sucks on the airlines and would suck on Amtrak. I only see it working if there is a set price list for tickets regardless of when they are booked (i.e. NYP - MIA is $500 with meals and $400 without meals all the time with no “dynamics” in play).
 

jis

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Yeah. Fares were not yield managed back when they started including meals in the fares.
But to some extent that may be irrelevant. Whether the Transport and/or Accommodation fare is yield managed or not has nothing to do with inclusion or not of Food component in the fare. The fare is constructed out of three components - Transport, Accommodation and Food. Each can be separately yield managed or not and the sum is the fare that is charged. It would make sense not to do yield management on the food component and just slap it onto the Transport + Accommodation yield managed fare, if that is what they wish.

Afterall until the early '90s Amtrak did not add on a food component to the fare, and even after they started, it was only to the Sleeper fare, not to the Slumbercoach fare. And even now it is not added to the Coach fare (for obvious reasons one might add. Afterall there has to be the ability to actually serve what one is charged for, and clearly Amtrak does not have the wherewithal to meaningfully feed all Coach passengers at the present time.)
 
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Bostonjetset

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But to some extent that may be irrelevant. Whether the Transport and/or Accommodation fare is yield managed or not has nothing to do with inclusion or not of Food component in the fare. The fare is constructed out of three components - Transport, Accommodation and Food. Each can be separately yield managed or not and the sum is the fare that is charged. It would make sense not to do yield management on the food component and just slap it onto the Transport + Accommodation yield managed fare, if that is what they wish.

Afterall until the early '90s Amtrak did noy add on a food component to the fare, and even after they started, it was only to the Sleeper fare, not to the Slumbercoach fare.
From an accounting standpoint you are correct. From a public relations and optics standpoint I disagree with you though. Unless food was removed from all fares completely and a pre-paid voucher type system was used where people who wanted meals could buy vouchers for them (or something of the sort).

It leaves a bad taste to offer food-inclusive fares next to non-inclusive fares when a total price is displayed. For example on many airlines they offer “basic” coach fares that don’t even include a carryon. Those fares may be higher than normal inclusive coach fares depending on yield. It’s sucks for everyone but the stockholders. On the other hand most airline first class tickets include all the same things. If they decoupled food and bags it would be a nightmare.
 

jis

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From an accounting standpoint you are correct. From a public relations and optics standpoint I disagree with you though. Unless food was removed from all fares completely and a pre-paid voucher type system was used where people who wanted meals could buy vouchers for them (or something of the sort).

It leaves a bad taste to offer food-inclusive fares next to non-inclusive fares when a total price is displayed. For example on many airlines they offer “basic” coach fares that don’t even include a carryon. Those fares may be higher than normal inclusive coach fares depending on yield. It’s sucks for everyone but the stockholders. On the other hand most airline first class tickets include all the same things. If they decoupled food and bags it would be a nightmare.
As you noted up front, I was merely stating that as a matter of feasibility of the mechanics there is no problem. I was not commenting on tastes in people's mouths (pun intended), since that is just a matter of ones opinion. And as they say, everyone has at least one ... ;)
 

me_little_me

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Personally, I think that if meals were decoupled from sleeper prices, the diners would disappear for lack of patronage.

Amtrak does not know how to "sell" their food.

Anyone boarding at a big city i.e. one with lots of passengers for a trip that, for them, would be just about mealtime, would, instead, eat a little bit earlier at a real restaurant especially if they think the train is going to be late. Similarly, why eat shortly before deboarding when you won't feel rushed if you eat at a restaurant a short time later. I particularly mention big cities because Amtrak diner would get hit hard financially if on a particular trip, much fewer than normal would decline the diner.

What if Amtrak pre-sold you a meal and your train was late? A mess to handle along with disappointed passengers either rushed through the meal or eating much later than they want just not getting one and having to ask for a refund.
 

zephyr17

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Personally, I think that if meals were decoupled from sleeper prices, the diners would disappear for lack of patronage.
Well, "saving the diners" was one of the major reasons they bundled meals into the sleeper fares in the first place. I know back before that I almost never ate 3 meals a day in the diner, although I usually ate one or two.
 

Rambling Robert

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Last year the DOT undersecretary was concerned about the profitability of Amtrak food service. Also the October 2019 move to airline food on eastern LH. Then the Spring of 2020 a lot changed.

Now we are just about out of the pandemic. We have a different DOT guy. Food service has been given high marks an attracting new passengers.

A minimum change of allowing coach passengers to book with a tentative meal reservation sounds okay with me. At some point the sleepers’ might go half full allowing coach folks in the diner and then with social distancing of still in effect.

on my little home grown message board topic - over the last few years - I’ve given very high marks to the Amtrak brand. Amtrak Joe has done a lot to boost the morale.
 
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