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twa904

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I thought the LD trains had different menus. I have just looked at the menus for the CONO,

Cresent, Lake Shore Limited and the the Silver Meteor and the food selections are exactly the same.
 

Dakota 400

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Having just this month traveled on the Crescent, the Sunset Limited, and the Southwest Chief, I can confirm that the LD trains menus are generic to all of those on which I traveled. My trip bridged the time when the menus were changed. On the Crescent, a small, but good, dinner salad was included. On the Sunset Limited, after the menu change: no salad. But, on the Southwest Chief, a dinner salad, larger than the one on the Crescent, was included with the dinner. When I questioned the Service Attendent about the difference, Nina said about the service on the Sunset Limited: "Well, they should have included it."
 
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pennyk

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On the Silver Meteor (97/28), salads were provided only if specifically requested.
 
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The Whistler

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Coming off Joe Boardman's outrageous claim to congress that Amtrak will make the dining cars profitable; we are seeing the effects of that now. What is troubling is that the plan cannot succeed no matter what is done. Even if you served only hotdogs, burgers and soda on the menu and/or went to box lunches; the dining cars would still not be profitable. The dining cars are there to attract the highest paying passengers and to fill the sleepers. You know it, I know it and even Boardman knows it. IMO, the petty cuts in dining car service is only "feel good" theater that will carry Joe Boardman through to his retirement. After that maybe someone in congress will wake up, understand the purpose of the dining cars, their history and their critical importance.

I was communicating with a friend from Florida that always takes the Autotrain North each fall. He said that after their last experience eating food that doesn't even meet cafeteria standards (and paying $1100 for the one way tri), he will drive next time. This is my sentiment as well. I am just not paying big bucks for a sleeper to dine on low quality food. If people want to pay first class priced fares to get substandard meals, that's their privilege, but this guy is not opening his wallet for that. I hope that people will express their sentiments to management and not be hard on the crew that in all probability agrees. I guess time will tell
 

neroden

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Last time Amtrak downgraded food service in the early 1980s, they apparently saw a 13% ticket revenue loss on each train where they did so. According to a recent presentation from that department of Amtrak.

Allocating 13% of all ticket revenues to the dining car would certainly be enough to pay for a decent full-service dining car on Auto Train, the LSL, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, etc. Apparently they are currently allocating rather less than that.
 

Paulus

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Last time Amtrak downgraded food service in the early 1980s, they apparently saw a 13% ticket revenue loss on each train where they did so. According to a recent presentation from that department of Amtrak.

Allocating 13% of all ticket revenues to the dining car would certainly be enough to pay for a decent full-service dining car on Auto Train, the LSL, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, etc. Apparently they are currently allocating rather less than that.
This is with FY12 numbers:

Route F&B revenue as percentage of ticket revenue
Sunset Limited 20%
Coast Starlight 19%
California Zephyr 16%
Empire Builder 14%
Southwest Chief 13%
Auto Train 13%
Texas Eagle 12%
Capitol Limited 12%
Cardinal 10%
Silver Star 10%
Silver Meteor 9%
Crescent 9%
City of New Orleans 8%
Lake Shore Limited 8%
Palmetto 5%

I don't think the allocations are really an issue especially since it's a bit of a robbing Peter to pay Paul issue. You'll also, quite deservedly, get quite a bit of Congressional squawking over the fact that you're double dipping on coach revenue: First with the 13% allocation and then by making them pay again when they go for food. If you switch it around and look at it as a percentage of sleeper revenue where it is mostly coming from anyhow as an allocation:

Code:
Route	F&B revenue as percentage of sleeper revenue
Cardinal        	55%
Sunset Limited  	46%
Silver Star     	45%
Coast Starlight 	44%
Texas Eagle     	39%
Crescent        	37%
Empire Builder  	35%
California Zephyr	32%
Auto Train      	32%
Silver Meteor   	31%
Southwest Chief  	31%
City of New Orleans	31%
Lake Shore Limited	29%
Capitol Limited  	26%
 

benale

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Jul 11, 2006
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356
The Auto Train is not cheap. For what you pay you should expect high quality food. I 've taken every Amtrak LD train with the exception of The Auto Train. I find it cheaper to drive from Pa to Fl. and stay overnight in a motel. Sometimes I'll take the Silver trains and rent a car. Still less money than the overpriced Auto Train. If you live in New England,New York,NJ or Pa it's still quite a drive to Lorton and always crowded on 95 South of DC. If you are going to West Palm or Fort Lauderdale.it's still quite a drive from Sanford.

I would imagine the people who use Auto Train are retired and spend the winter in Florida and they need their car. That makes sense. For any other reason, it is more economical to take a Silver train and rent a car or drive.

Didn't mean to get off topic of food,but again, for what you are paying to ride this train,the food should be exceptional.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Not addressisng any particular poster

When saying "what you pay for" in regard to the Auto Train, are you including the cost of transporting your vehicle? If so, is your vehicle also eating in the diner? The cost consideration in regards to the diner should be based only on the cost of the room, not the total cost of the trip.
 

benale

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Yes, I am including the cost of transporting the vehicle. If the price was just a bit more than traveling on of the Silver trains, it would be worth it,but when you add the cost of the car to the basic fare, it's quite excessive. Of course the Autotrain is quite popular, so people are willing to pay to take their car with them at the price Amtrak wants.
 

TVRM610

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Last time Amtrak downgraded food service in the early 1980s, they apparently saw a 13% ticket revenue loss on each train where they did so. According to a recent presentation from that department of Amtrak.

Allocating 13% of all ticket revenues to the dining car would certainly be enough to pay for a decent full-service dining car on Auto Train, the LSL, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, etc. Apparently they are currently allocating rather less than that.
Wasn't that microwaved tv dinners though? I know there is room for improvement but we are currently at Denny's / Applebees Levels. I think Amtrak made a mistake making all the menus identical, and the specials (crab cakes, lamb shank, etc.) were the best tasting dishes in my experiences... but we still have SOMETHING decent. Hopefully it won't get too far down.
 

Dakota 400

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I have no complaint about the quality of food served in the Dining Cars. To expect the steak, or anything else, to be the equilavent of a steak or other entree that would be served at a high-end restaurant is unrealistic in my opinion.

The salads that were served were fresh containing a nice assortment of veggies and offered with premium Salad Dressings. The quality of everything else that I ordered was most acceptable and the croissants on the Crescent were superior, in fact, to what I have been served in many hotel restaurants.

The one negative was that whoever the Chef was on the Southwest Chief overcooked the steak, the Burger, the boring veggies, and the chicken.
 

neroden

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Last time Amtrak downgraded food service in the early 1980s, they apparently saw a 13% ticket revenue loss on each train where they did so. According to a recent presentation from that department of Amtrak.

Allocating 13% of all ticket revenues to the dining car would certainly be enough to pay for a decent full-service dining car on Auto Train, the LSL, the Silver Star, the Silver Meteor, etc. Apparently they are currently allocating rather less than that.
Wasn't that microwaved tv dinners though? I know there is room for improvement but we are currently at Denny's / Applebees Levels.
We're a little bit below that now; not much, but a little, and so I don't want to see further drops.Particular points:

- Denny's can accomodate special requests for dietary restrictions, which Amtrak is having some trouble with at the moment (due to how much of the food is pre-prepared, and the lack of ingredient information available to the chefs).

- Obviously there's much worse selection on Amtrak than at Denny's.

- And the prices are higher on Amtrak.

I guess the main place where Amtrak suffers by comparison to Denny's is simply options, which is important for the many people with annoying and varied dietary restrictions (more options == more chances to find *something* edible). Options in this regard include things like the assembly of the burger (leave out cheese, leave off bun, etc. etc.). You can still do that with a burger on Amtrak, but a lot of the other dishes are pre-mixed.

I am glad to hear that the salads went way up in quality; that's a good sign.
 

NorthShore

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Maybe they should contract out the diners to Dennys? Then, rather than asking your seat mate, "Hey, should we go to the diner for dinner?" We can say, "Wanna go out to Dennys?"
 

neroden

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Of course I understand the reasons for the limited selection (extreme limitations on storage space on a train), but it means Amtrak needs to make some special effort to compensate for that.
 

Dakota 400

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Of course I understand the reasons for the limited selection (extreme limitations on storage space on a train), but it means Amtrak needs to make some special effort to compensate for that.
Before the menu change, there was a Specialty Sandwich option for Lunch. Not now after the menu change. Storage space has not changed, thus, why drop what was a suitable option? Even the LSA and SA agreed that another sandwich option needed to be made available other than the Hot Dog, which I had and was really quite good.
 
B

Bus Nut

Guest
Of course I understand the reasons for the limited selection (extreme limitations on storage space on a train), but it means Amtrak needs to make some special effort to compensate for that.
They tried that and then the usual suspects in Congress and elsewhere took them to school. They tried to get chefs to develop train-preparable meals that actually taste good and the howls of outrage drowned out every positive thing NRPC had done in the six months prior. So here we are with uninspired food again except on state supported routes where they can demand something else (and pay for that).
 

neroden

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Obviously folks like Mica are just looking for any excuse they can to damage passenger train service.

But Mica isn't running the committee any more; I think he isn't even on the subcommittee.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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I ate at Applebee's Salt Lake City when I was on layover in Salt Lake City on my Denver-Reno Greyhound trip, the food was OK but I found Arby's RBC more appetizing.
 

sldispatcher

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Dec 14, 2008
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If it would be allowed, I'd be all for contracting out dining car service. Allow the company to put in a surcharge even to sleeping car passengers for "premium" offerings. I'd bet a few people on here would shell out $10 - $20 at night for a Premium offering. Or even a $80 "premium dining pkg".

I definitely think it is a total shame that Amtrak continues to be a political football and that the premium customers..the ones really paying their way..get the shaft. Unfortunately, both sides of the equation, Amtrak and Congress, make some apparently dumb mistakes and try to hide too much with accounting tricks. With regularly sold out sleepers, where is the upward pressure on pricing if capacity cannot meet demand?
 
S

SteveSTX

Guest
Of course I understand the reasons for the limited selection (extreme limitations on storage space on a train), but it means Amtrak needs to make some special effort to compensate for that.
Before the menu change, there was a Specialty Sandwich option for Lunch. Not now after the menu change. Storage space has not changed, thus, why drop what was a suitable option? Even the LSA and SA agreed that another sandwich option needed to be made available other than the Hot Dog, which I had and was really quite good.
I agree. Even if they offered a nice Club Sandwich with Bacon, Ham, and Turkey. It seems like something that would be really easy to prepare. Oh that's right -- there's no toast on Amtrak!
 

northnorthwest

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Feb 21, 2013
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Something I've always wondered about is this. The last 11 years I lived in Philly. There are food trucks all over the place, especially around the universities, and they are preparing on the spot sandwiches, hoagies, pastas, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, soups, Indian, fruit shakes, and on and on. This is not even getting to the prepackaged items. This food is WAY cheaper and WAAAYY better quality than Amtrak. Why is it possible for food trucks to make very good and flavorful food prepared on the spot, and it is impossible on Amtrak? If it would help, why couldn't they have the equivalent a few of these food trucks in the diner? You could have Chinese, breakfast/lunch/sandwich/Western, and something else, etc. They fry the eggs right in front of you and make the bacon right there. None of this heating up bland meals that were stored in the attic for a decade. They have fresh chopped vegetables. They have HUGE selections in tiny space. Different routes could even have different options, so people would have something exciting to experience as they traveled. They could have guest chefs on certain routes, which would draw attention to the food and that particular route.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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Agreed! Fellow Philadelphian here. I don't like in Philly anymore but I know what you mean. Contractors out in Sacramento do it better than Amtrak. IMHO, Amtrak food is not worse than Applebee's. Maybe I just had bad days with Applebee's, I don't know, I rarely eat there and rarely eat at Denny's either.
 
T

twa904

Guest
Denny's is not good at all. There should be regional selections mixed in with the current menus.

Cajun out of New Orleans, Tex-Mex across the southwest, BBQ out of Memphis. I never seen a pizza except where they been brought on board.
 
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