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AmtrakBlue

Conductor
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Like many things in life, there is no one size fits all when it comes to food likes/dislikes.
 

PRae_Train

Service Attendant
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Jun 14, 2014
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Massachusetts
I learned long ago that I like Denny's for breakfast, and possibly a sandwich or burger for lunch, but a serious MSG migraine told me never to get Mexican food at Denny's.
 

OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
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Feb 7, 2008
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Norman, OK
Cooking good to high end food in a Diner Car is nothing new if you simply look back before Amtrak and even in the very early days of Amtrak. Bring that quality back and I will not for a second mind paying a higher Sleeper Fare or Menu price.
 
S

steve in cleveland

Guest
Cooking good to high end food in a Diner Car is nothing new if you simply look back before Amtrak and even in the very early days of Amtrak. Bring that quality back and I will not for a second mind paying a higher Sleeper Fare or Menu price.
Yes, check out a menu from the New York Central's 20th Century Limited, prepared in a much more primitive dining car kitchen with a wood stove.....same thing with Santa Fe's Super Chief or even just the coach El Capitan----high qiality cuisine on board....the problem now is that the government is trying to milk the first class passengers with high fares and few amenities....that was what the private railroads began doing in the 1960s to deliberately discourage passengers, so they could then discontinue routes....
 

warbonnet

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Joined
Aug 23, 2002
Messages
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High Desert, Southern California
Hi All,

Traveled SWC\LSL LAX to NYP two weeks ago in sleepers. The menu selections during the 4 day\3 night trip were beyond poor. It used to be exciting to get to the diner, but now it's "let's go get it over with" Nothing to look forward to. The best option for Amtrak would be to contract out the dining car meals\service to a caterer, just like the airlines do. Get out of the food business altogether. We all know the unions would just scream over that idea! Our SCA attendant said Amtrak is cutting back on bottled water when I request some. So I bought water in the café car. He couldn't wait to get to Chicago where it could get a six pack in his hotel room! Wow!. It's just become a very poor value riding in first class anymore on Amtrak. Crappy service and meals.

Wb
 

Swadian Hardcore

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On The Road
Cooking good to high end food in a Diner Car is nothing new if you simply look back before Amtrak and even in the very early days of Amtrak. Bring that quality back and I will not for a second mind paying a higher Sleeper Fare or Menu price.
Yes, check out a menu from the New York Central's 20th Century Limited, prepared in a much more primitive dining car kitchen with a wood stove.....same thing with Santa Fe's Super Chief or even just the coach El Capitan----high qiality cuisine on board....the problem now is that the government is trying to milk the first class passengers with high fares and few amenities....that was what the private railroads began doing in the 1960s to deliberately discourage passengers, so they could then discontinue routes....
Are you sure the 20th Century Limited always had a wood stove? Even in the days when it used Budd stainless equipment? I'm sure VIA's Budd Diners aren't so primitive.
 

Swadian Hardcore

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I thought they would have used electrical power from the steam generator. But I see that the logs might not have been used in every appliance of the diner. How's they fire them? Matches? Lighter?
 
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OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
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Norman, OK
Not too long ago I read in a book about the history of Railroad Diners and Recipes right after the War Streamline Diners were built with electric appliances based on technology developed for Submarine Galleys.
 

cpamtfan

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Long Island, NY.
Amtrak tried to do regional cuisine, it was about as successful as it is going to get with the boundaries they are set to work with, and Congress still had a fit about it. Amtrak has zero control over things, plain and simple. They will always continue to have to fight the balance of pleasing everyone the best they can because the world isn't perfect.

The food quality on trains isn't going to change because they have a much more efficient system for getting a set line of products that can be distributed anywhere. Is it right to the passengers? Probably not, but airlines are in an even tighter window and people don't nearly complain as much. In fact, Amtrak could probably offer unique items more in line with the way the Acela first class worked if they could get over the fact some people expect their dining cars to serve freshly prepared 5 star quality meals, when that will never be the case again.
 
G

Guest

Guest
Question for the hospitality industry experts out there:

Do the food and beverage operations of hotels typically turn a standalone profit? Even when the only F&B operation is giving away a free breakfast?

If not, then why is Amtrak held to a different standard? Are there any generally accepted accounting standards for the financial performance of F&B operations as part of a larger enterprise, or is this really just a case of congress making it up as they go along?

Thanks,

Guest
 

saxman

Conductor
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This is just an observation from all the hotels I stay in, but it always seems that hotel restaurants are never very full. Maybe they have a big breakfast but seems empty for the other meals. Sometimes I wonder how they make money.
 

OlympianHiawatha

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This is just an observation from all the hotels I stay in, but it always seems that hotel restaurants are never very full. Maybe they have a big breakfast but seems empty for the other meals. Sometimes I wonder how they make money.
Hotel Restaurants tend to be Clipjoints and unlike the train, the audience is not captive. Often the Breakfast is included in the Room Rate.
 

jis

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I guess, one difference is that if the hotel is not overall profitable it just gets shut down. Within those constraints how the hotel chooses to make itself attractive is not subject to close scrutiny.
 

zephyr17

Conductor
Joined
Jul 22, 2009
Messages
4,050
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Washington State
Cooking good to high end food in a Diner Car is nothing new if you simply look back before Amtrak and even in the very early days of Amtrak. Bring that quality back and I will not for a second mind paying a higher Sleeper Fare or Menu price.
Yes, check out a menu from the New York Central's 20th Century Limited, prepared in a much more primitive dining car kitchen with a wood stove.....same thing with Santa Fe's Super Chief or even just the coach El Capitan----high qiality cuisine on board....the problem now is that the government is trying to milk the first class passengers with high fares and few amenities....that was what the private railroads began doing in the 1960s to deliberately discourage passengers, so they could then discontinue routes....
Are you sure the 20th Century Limited always had a wood stove? Even in the days when it used Budd stainless equipment? I'm sure VIA's Budd Diners aren't so primitive.
They used Presto logs for certain things (don't know what, but I remember reading about the Presto logs).
 

Swadian Hardcore

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For certain things? I thought they would have used coal. Why didn't they use electrical power from the steam generator? The train already had air-conditioning.
 
J

Jebediah

Guest
Amtrak tried to do regional cuisine, it was about as successful as it is going to get with the boundaries they are set to work with, and Congress still had a fit about it. Amtrak has zero control over things, plain and simple. They will always continue to have to fight the balance of pleasing everyone the best they can because the world isn't perfect.

The food quality on trains isn't going to change because they have a much more efficient system for getting a set line of products that can be distributed anywhere. Is it right to the passengers? Probably not, but airlines are in an even tighter window and people don't nearly complain as much. In fact, Amtrak could probably offer unique items more in line with the way the Acela first class worked if they could get over the fact some people expect their dining cars to serve freshly prepared 5 star quality meals, when that will never be the case again.
When did they prepare 5-star quality meals? And why can't that be the case today if it was in the past?

The longer you make excuses for Amtrak, the more they will ultimately suffer in terms of revenue. I will NEVER pay for an overpriced and mediocre meal. Amtrak loses so much business because of their low standards. Not just food but equipment, schedules, heating, the overall condition of everything. Until they get with the program and move into the 21st century they will continue to bleed money.

Bottom line: Stop apologizing and making excuses for a failed system and get to work making an actual profitable and modern railroad.
 

haolerider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 21, 2004
Messages
1,437
Question for the hospitality industry experts out there:

Do the food and beverage operations of hotels typically turn a standalone profit? Even when the only F&B operation is giving away a free breakfast?

If not, then why is Amtrak held to a different standard? Are there any generally accepted accounting standards for the financial performance of F&B operations as part of a larger enterprise, or is this really just a case of congress making it up as they go along?

Thanks,

Guest
As a former hotel executive, I can tell you that most major hotels do not make money on their restaurant operations, with the exception of banquets, conventions and other large group operations. We always felt it was better to contract out the F&B operations to individual operators, who were on a fixed rent with a share of the gross. If you are in a major city and have a stand alone restaurant that is very successful and "on the list" of happening spots, you can make a profit, but again, the restaurant clientele is very fickle and what is popular today, may be gone tomorrow!Also, hotels and their F&B operations don't have an ill-informed congress breathing down their neck for issues with funding, so,it is a total apples and oranges situation.

Even a Marriott Courtyard or Hamption Inn may just break even with the "free" breakfast they provide, but since I never had any experience with those types of properties, I would assume that the staff has other duties during the day. As with most service industries, the cost of,personnel is your highest expense. Amtrak is uniques, since their employe expense is not comparable to a stand alone F&B operation.

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.
My experience with food trucks is that they are in a physical location for a limited amount of,time and stock just what they need to satisfy their menu. They have about the same amount of cooking space as an Amtrak kitchen, but their storage is limited. They also generally serve their product on a paper plate or container, with limited silverware, napkins, etc. They also don't have the union requirements that limit Amtrak in many ways. Remember the attempt to have Subway serve food in the northeast? The union was all over that and Subway finally said "we quit!".
 

Dakota 400

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Mar 5, 2014
Messages
2,287
One poster on this thread indicated that there was difficulty in getting bottled water on the SWC. Not from my experience. All I had to do was to request it, and the SCA attendent provided it. Another example, I think, of the inconsistency in service that maybe is one of Amtrak's major issues.
 

MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
You know, everybody talks about "back in the gold old days" when all the railroads apparently served 5-star cuisine on board. Well, maybe they did on a few crack trains, but I guess I never rode them, My pre-Amtrak food experience was limited to the "snack bar coach" on the PRR Northeast corridor trains (25 cents for a can of Coke you could buy for a dime in any vending machine! A rip-off!), a nice breakfast in a PRR diner on a NEC train between Baltimore and Philadelphia, a nasty low bucket meal on the Denver Zephyr in the "special" diner they had for the Scouts going to Philmont, and a very nice pizza in the Chuckwagon car of the Denver Zephyr where I ate after the lousy meal they gave us kids. Well, that pizza better have been good, it cost $5 back in 1968, which according to my handy inflation calculator is worth about $34 in today's money. (And it was only a personal size pizza, at that.)

In the early Amtrak era, I ate in the diner on NEC trains (The Bankers) and the Broadway Limited. While the service was elegant with nice silver (well, silver plate) cutlery, china, and starched linens, the food was very basic. Three menu items: Fish, (baked) for $2 ($11), chicken (baked) for $3 ($16), and steak for $8 ($43). You got a full meal for that, though I don't remember if non-alcoholic drinks were included or not. The food wasn't bad, either, but it was simple.

I will say the the service was frightfully efficient, and I wonder why they don't resurrect that system. You, the customer filled out your own order - the order form was the menu, too. The waiter took your order form and then delivered the meal. It seems like it would be a much more efficient system than what they do now and allow a relatively small waitstaff to serve a larger number of people than they do now, which I would think would improve the bottom line of the food operations, especially if it means they could get cash business from coach passengers who are now sometimes shut out of the diner.
 

tonys96

Conductor
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Aug 5, 2011
Messages
1,376
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Texas
Not saying this was "haute cuisine" but back in the 80s I got an excellent hamburger steak with brown mushroom gravy on the TE and enjoyed it better than anything I have ever gotten at Aplebee's
 
T

twa904

Guest
Does Amtrak you a certain brand of coffee on the trains? Do they have Dunkin Donut coffees or

maybe Starbucks. Can you get a Latte or Mocha?
 

BCL

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San Francisco Bay Area
Does Amtrak you a certain brand of coffee on the trains? Do they have Dunkin Donut coffees or

maybe Starbucks. Can you get a Latte or Mocha?
Depends on the route and possibly local pickups.

I saw the Auto Train menu says they have Green Mountain Coffee. On the Capitol Corridor it's Peerless Coffee from Oakland, served in Peerless Coffee logo cups. It looks like all Amtrak California routes use Peerless, with the logo cup prominent on the menu.
 

jebr

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On the long distance trains it's just your standard black coffee. They do have the bottled Starbucks frappuccinos in the cafe car, but otherwise it's just one variety of black coffee (you can add cream or sugar, though.)
 
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