COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic: Amtrak Food Service Discussion

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F900ElCapitan

Lead Service Attendant
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One small glimmer of light in the “flexible dining” experience is the ability to pre-order Kosher meals (72 hours are required for the pre-order). On my recent Texas Eagle trip from LA to Austin I ordered the cheese omelette breakfast and the salmon dinner. The breakfast wasn’t the best I’ve ever had by far, but was light years above the normal Jimmy Dean sandwich offerings. I then had the salmon dinner later that night, this dinner was quite impressive and better than what was being prepared in the full diners for the salmon dinner on the last menu.
 

F900ElCapitan

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I think it's important to always have a cash option for people who don't have bank accounts. But, I don't think that's actually at odds with what you're suggesting. The concept reminds me of the Amazon Go stores here in SF where you tag in on entry to the store, bag up what you want to buy, and tag out on exit. Amazon charge you for whatever you walk out of the store with. They have a way to pay using cash and staff are still needed, just not as cashiers generally, and there is no need to scan each item.
I rode the TE/SL on the 17th from LA to AUS, meals were definitely able to be ordered through the attendant and either picked up or delivered to your room. If it helps, every other table in the diner has been closed, so even if you eat there alone (no more community seating) I believe you will feel safe as I did.
 

AmtrakBlue

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I rode the TE/SL on the 17th from LA to AUS, meals were definitely able to be ordered through the attendant and either picked up or delivered to your room. If it helps, every other table in the diner has been closed, so even if you eat there alone (no more community seating) I believe you will feel safe as I did.
Pre-ordered Kosher meals have been available for years.
 

Maverickstation

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Mar 2, 2017
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Pre-ordered Kosher meals have been available for years.
Yes, but today, you can see the options that are available (including details on Food Facts) on the Amtrak website, so you can decide before phoning in the request. Needless to say anyone can order the Kosher meals.

Ken
 

crescent-zephyr

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Oct 21, 2015
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They’ve added 2 items to the menu for western trains - enchiladas and shrimp in lobster sauce.

Still no non-shellfish fish entree and no gluten free and vegetarian entree. :(

They really don’t get what people want. Give me an option for a simple entree salad!
 

lordsigma

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20th Century Rider

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Jan 26, 2020
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Not a good sign of they are adding more of the same mixed up crap. Just have a dam sandwich without 15,000 things on it.
Disgusting! HIGHLY processed food... and beware of those watery sauces... tasteless, and taking up a lot of volume of that 5 oz portion of 'food product.' That's a meal? That's a wrap! Or... whatever. To add to what you said... "more of the same mixed up crap" with zero texture, zero taste, and zero contentment.

BTW, some on this forum have disagreed with the idea of supporting private enterprise to partner with Amtrak and step in to compete with each other for a better solution for the same amount of $$$. What do you think???

So if Amtrak would open up its meal service program to competing vendors do you think this may bring an improved solution for food service during the pandemic? I mean, in terms of quality, presentation, content, taste, and putting a smile on that face after a really satisfying delicious meal???
 

PVD

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Amtrak already gets its food from private operators. An outside vendor operates the Downeaster food service. They get good reviews. Despite lower labor costs, they still lose money. The agency accepts those losses as making a positive contribution to the overall financial picture of the trains. Under the present rules, Amtrak can not do that.
 

20th Century Rider

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The current vendor can provide food at whatever quality Amtrak wants.

Remember, Acela First Class is getting boxed meals now.
It's about value for pricing. So, OK! Pret a Manger charges customers about $10 for a very fresh, quality wholesome meal for about $10 to $12 per meal, yet the 5oz meals Amtrak is touting are $25 according to the personal who say that is how much they have to pay if they want one. So where's the efficiency???
US003701-Mediterranean-Mezze-Salad.jpg

US003290-Chicken-Caesar-Salad.jpg
 

crescent-zephyr

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Oct 21, 2015
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It's about value for pricing. So, OK! Pret a Manger charges customers about $10 for a very fresh, quality wholesome meal for about $10 to $12 per meal, yet the 5oz meals Amtrak is touting are $25 according to the personal who say that is how much they have to pay if they want one. So where's the efficiency???
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Prets exist in extremely high traffic areas. That’s a totally different business model.

Amtrak should be providing something better but anything Amtrak provides is going to cost money. It won’t be able to turn a profit.
 

20th Century Rider

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Prets exist in extremely high traffic areas. That’s a totally different business model.

Amtrak should be providing something better but anything Amtrak provides is going to cost money. It won’t be able to turn a profit.
In terms of food service, that is exactly where the efficiency and innovation of a private vendor comes in to cut costs and up quality of food offered. Amtrak needs to make a greater effort to INVITE AND ALLOW sub contractors to compete for a food provision contract.

The food service [per covid] for the premier Amtrak Lounge in CHI is sub contracted from a private vendor. The fare is quite good considering the extremely tight financial support and guidelines imposed by Amtrak.

JUST FOR FUN... WHY NOT ACTUALLY DREAM...
What if Amtrak were to allow bids to be completely taken over by the private sector. Lots of folks think that Amtrak can only be run by the government. I'll bet if the US Government were to come out with a bidding opportunity based upon the budget for national passenger transportation that we have now, with prerequisites and an ongoing evaluation system, miracles would happen. I.E. more efficiency, better service, and [WHOA!] the Spector of profitability!
 

MARC Rider

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In terms of food service, that is exactly where the efficiency and innovation of a private vendor comes in to cut costs and up quality of food offered. Amtrak needs to make a greater effort to INVITE AND ALLOW sub contractors to compete for a food provision contract.
I believe Amtrak did do some sort of RFP just like that recently. I never heard that there was any response from the private sector. I really don't think that a long-distance train has the volume of potential customers to interest a private vendor in this business, except for catering companies to provide institutional quality food. Sorry, there's no "white knight" from the private sector that can save the traditional dining car.

Amtrak already gets its food from private vendors, and we all know that the flex dining stuff is not up to par. Amtrak doesn't have to change its system, all they need to decide to order better quality food.
 

lordsigma

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Still lacking majorly in the breakfast department and also as many have pointed out no lighter sandwich or similar choices for lunch. I must confess I actually kind of like the jimmy dean sandwiches but I have to imagine they get quite old after day 2 or 3.
 

MARC Rider

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Still lacking majorly in the breakfast department and also as many have pointed out no lighter sandwich or similar choices for lunch. I must confess I actually kind of like the jimmy dean sandwiches but I have to imagine they get quite old after day 2 or 3.
Yeah, they need toast/bagels, cream cheese/butter, more varieties of yogurt (including plain) and in the 6 oz. cups served in the cafe car instead of those mini snack cups. Also, unflavored oatmeal, even if it's instant. And maybe a meat-free Jimmy Dean (or equivalent) Sandwich. The fresh fruit cup is pretty good, but maybe it should be sized the same as the one sold in the NEC cafe cars.
 

MARC Rider

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What they need on the NEC cafe cars:

We're talking about a service that has multiple daily frequencies originating or passing through New York City, and they can't serve a decent Pastrami on Rye? Even a Corned Beef on Rye would be acceptable.

And with Washington as a major terminal, why can't they serve a half-smoke? And what about a Philly Cheese steak or Hoagie? Or a Maryland Crab cake? Or a serving of Boston baked beans?

My brother rides the train to New York quite a bit, but he told me that he doesn't bother with the cafe car, except to buy coffee. Well, for a 2 1/2 hour ride, I guess you really don't have to eat on board.
 
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