Can flexible dining be implemented on Pacific Surfliner?

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JermyZP

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Right now they only give a snack box and one drink for trains running during lunch and dinner service hours. They also only give a protein bar or granola bar with water or coffee for morning trains. The pacific surfliner business cars has a small kitchen that currently can have microwave meals prepared. I'm not asking for traditional dining on the PS because that requires a dining car, that Amtrak has a limited stock. I'm just asking is it possible to implement a flexible dining for business class on the Pacific Surfliner?
 

jis

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Right now they only give a snack box and one drink for trains running during lunch and dinner service hours. They also only give a protein bar or granola bar with water or coffee for morning trains. The pacific surfliner business cars has a small kitchen that currently can have microwave meals prepared. I'm not asking for traditional dining on the PS because that requires a dining car, that Amtrak has a limited stock. I'm just asking is it possible to implement a flexible dining for business class on the Pacific Surfliner?
I am sure if Amtrak California decided they would like to provide that service they will be able to figure out a way. It will have to be funded by Caltrans though, not Amtrak.
 
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What, you want to force those poor people in California to have to endure the awful Flex meals that are forced on us Easterners?!! :)

The total distance between LA and San Diego (which accounts for the vast majority of riders) is only 128 miles. The average distance traveled per passenger is 94 miles. (These from the RPA ridership stats.) Somehow, I don't think that dinner service is a particularly high priority for Amtrak California. There might be more reason for cafe cars on the NEC or some of the longer midwest corridors to offer flex dinners.
 

jis

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What, you want to force those poor people in California to have to endure the awful Flex meals that are forced on us Easterners?!! :)

The total distance between LA and San Diego (which accounts for the vast majority of riders) is only 128 miles. The average distance traveled per passenger is 94 miles. (These from the RPA ridership stats.) Somehow, I don't think that dinner service is a particularly high priority for Amtrak California. There might be more reason for cafe cars on the NEC or some of the longer midwest corridors to offer flex dinners.
If at all, it would be the LA to San Louis Obispo segment that would be the one which could do with a little more robust food service. Agree about LA - San Diego.
 

Cal

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I don't think it's really necessary either, the Surfliner is fine without. It would be a nice touch, especially for trains that go north of LA, but not needed.

And if a dining service is implemented, why flex? Why not pre-covid Acela first class meals?
 

crescent-zephyr

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It would be nice if this was an option for an extra charge. Since there is already an attendant and food loaded onto the car it seems like it should be easy to add this service and give it a try.

Although I agree serving the actual flex meals is not the best idea. Something higher quality would be best.
 

Cal

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It would be nice if this was an option for an extra charge. Since there is already an attendant and food loaded onto the car it seems like it should be easy to add this service and give it a try.
Hmm, most Surfliner set's, if not all, do have two business class cars. The Superliner could be used for regular business while the Surfliner could be used for a First Class type of service. Would make it easier to separate the two instead of having them in one car.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Hmm, most Surfliner set's, if not all, do have two business class cars. The Superliner could be used for regular business while the Surfliner could be used for a First Class type of service. Would make it easier to separate the two instead of having them in one car.

Oh no, I meant the meals would be an extra charge. Like the snack box would still be free, but the meals would be available to order for pay.
 

JermyZP

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They also do have limited stock of cafe food. I remember going on the PS train from SD to LA during the Del Mar races and halfway through my trip they had no food left and only had drinks left. So I think having a type of Acela first class meals available for only business class would benefit during the peek season. The Pacific Coast Highway segment in the southern section of the rout, it takes 30 to 40 minutes to pass through. That segment can be used to prepare and pass out food.
 
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I would also want to report that the last few times I've taken Acela First Class, a large percentage of the passengers don't order meals. However, many of them do order drinks (though some people who are traveling on business seem to stick with the seltzer water and coffee). It's not clear what the demand for full meals is for the shorter rides being taken on a short corridor like the Pacific Surfliner. I suppose they'll have to do some market research to see how many people would actually pay for a full meal.
 
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I would also want to report that the last few times I've taken Acela First Class, a large percentage of the passengers don't order meals. However, many of them do order drinks (though some people who are traveling on business seem to stick with the seltzer water and coffee). It's not clear what the demand for full meals is for the shorter rides being taken on a short corridor like the Pacific Surfliner. I suppose they'll have to do some market research to see how many people would actually pay for a full meal.
Totally agree. I believe there would be a VERY limited market for this.
 

neroden

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Those snack boxes were slightly nicer than the much-maligned "flexible dining". :p

I do think selling salads and sandwiches in the cafe of the quality which they had in the Northeast Regionals and Empire Service for a few years before they trashed the cafe selection in 2018 might be a good move.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Those snack boxes were slightly nicer than the much-maligned "flexible dining". :p

I do think selling salads and sandwiches in the cafe of the quality which they had in the Northeast Regionals and Empire Service for a few years before they trashed the cafe selection in 2018 might be a good move.

Years ago the train from Sacramento to Bakersfield had incredibly good burritos. Not sure if they still do and also not sure if the Surfliner ever carried them but some of the California supported trains did have some unique cafe items that were very good quality.
 

crescent-zephyr

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The Cascades had always had pretty good tray meals available (which is what flex dining essentially is) until the pandemic. Of course, the cafe menu on those was always determined by Washington DOT, not Amtrak.

The Cascades used to have 2 employees for the cafe. Not sure if they used the term chef but there were a few items that were prepared on board - my oatmeal was served dining car style for example. I think the chowder they served for lunch / dinner was as well.

I also really liked the bistro cars, way more classy then the amfleets and Acela.
 

zephyr17

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The Cascades used to have 2 employees for the cafe. Not sure if they used the term chef but there were a few items that were prepared on board - my oatmeal was served dining car style for example. I think the chowder they served for lunch / dinner was as well.

I also really liked the bistro cars, way more classy then the amfleets and Acela.
They kept the menu, but dropped the dining car style service many years ago.

My point is the tray meals used on the Cascades were pretty good and those meals were available until they withdrew all food and beverage service on the single surviving Cascade during the pandemic. I was making no comment at all on the long dead "dining car" style service. They were heat and eat during the "dining car" style years, and they were heat and eat until the withdrawal of food service entirely due to the pandemic. They were never, ever freshly prepared on the Cascades. At most they were plated. The same employee that waited table heated the food. The main difference now is you order it at the counter and carry it back to the "dining car" (if you want to eat it there, I think the remaining Talgo 8s have that table car like the 6s did) instead of being served there and the guy at the counter does the heating.

They were serving Ivar's Clam Chowder right up to the pandemic when they stopped food service entirely. Now that food service is back, as of May 24th, I hope Ivar's is back with it. That Ivar's Clam Chowder came onboard in a big bag, by the way. It wasn't made onboard.

I rode the Cascades a lot pre-pandemic and during the "dining car" years I usually ate in it.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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They kept the menu, but dropped the dining car style service many years ago.

My point is the tray meals used on the Cascades were pretty good and those meals were available until they withdrew all food and beverage service on the single surviving Cascade during the pandemic. I was making no comment at all on the long dead "dining car" style service. They were heat and eat during the "dining car" style years, and they were heat and eat until the withdrawal of food service entirely due to the pandemic. They were never, ever freshly prepared on the Cascades. At most they were plated. The same employee that waited table heated the food. The main difference now is you order it at the counter and carry it back to the "dining car" (if you want to eat it there, I think the remaining Talgo 8s have that table car) instead of being served there and the guy at the counter does the heating.

They were serving Ivar's Clam Chowder right up to the pandemic when they stopped food service entirely. Now that food service is back, as of May 24th, I hope Ivar's is back with it. That Ivar's Clam Chowder came onboard in a big bag, by the way. It wasn't made onboard.

I rode the Cascades a lot pre-pandemic and during the "dining car" years I usually ate in it.

No this wasn’t dining car service - I still ordered at the counter and carried the food to the table myself. But there were 2 workers. One in the “kitchen” and one at the register. The oatmeal came from a pot, and was served dining car style - that’s what I meant by cooked on board. It wasn't a little thing of instant oatmeal like they use now in flex.

“Cooked on board” has lots of definitions so it can get a bit confusing because we each count different things.

I know that the meals I had on the Cascades were much better then the flex meals in my book!
 

zephyr17

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Yeah, they still didn't have the instant oatmeal. The soup and oatmeal both came and come out of a pots. I do think they dropped the assistant, so the counter person was also heating stuff up, but the menu hadn't changed and nothing on the Cascades was freshly prepared onboard. Dropping the assistant just made the counter person's job harder and service slower, but they always had pretty decent tray meals available. Plus freshly ladled out oatmeal and Ivar's Clam Chowder.

I did like the days when there was table service in that table car, though. Since they had had that style service in the past on the Cascades, and the same person that waited on tables heated the food then, I thought that is what you meant by dining car style. Which I enjoyed very much, even though the same items remained available after it was dropped. Sorry about the confusion.

My main point is if they can have decent meals on the Cascades, they can have it on the Surfliners.
 
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allanorn

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Totally agree. I believe there would be a VERY limited market for this.

If the food is decent it could be worth a try on the longer trains (SAN-SBA or SAN-SLO). Lots of people here prefer healthier and better options than microwaved cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and pizza - and would probably pay for it. There are probably even a few SAN-LAX trains (like Monday morning, Friday evening) where it could work too, especially with a time-sensitive and/or captive audience. That’s assuming the cafe cars on the Surfliner have the capacity and the capability to handle flex meals or something better.

Ideally the longer runs have an option for some sort of dining car and/or order-at-the-seat for First/Business class like CD or ÖBB, but that requires living in an alternate reality at this point.
 
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