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

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crescent-zephyr

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Have their been any updates? Now that’s izaak Walton inn is reopening thinking about taking a trip. Would rather have traditional dining car food.
 

Green Maned Lion

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According to my friend, who writes for Railway Age, and is extremely reliable on this kind of information, if always somewhat on the negative (aka accurate) side of perspective, its actually going to be that way through late fall.
 

crescent-zephyr

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According to my friend, who writes for Railway Age, and is extremely reliable on this kind of information, if always somewhat on the negative (aka accurate) side of perspective, its actually going to be that way through late fall.
Was afraid of that.

When all this started I was thinking I should take my last trips with a real diner while I still could :-/
 

Green Maned Lion

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I did that last September on the Silver Meteor. I did a small bucket-list trip that involved riding the Meteor the whole length (never had quite done that before) and spending a couple of nights at Morris Lapidus's masterpiece (that would be the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach). The train ride was good, if the food a bit disapointing. The hotel was a contradiction.

I always wanted to stay there because of its architecture, as well as the crowd that once went there (the ones that are mostly altakaka yentas if they are still alive nowadays) which is a crowd I missed quite a bit since Kutcher's became the last of the Borscht belt to close about 6 or 7 years ago. My preferences for entertainment align with them, and they don't engage in the loud types of partying people my age tend to favor. Also they tend to be a bit tight with money, making the places they frequent not quite as outrageously expensive as the ones aimed at the young-and-trying-to-prove-their-wealth crowd.

I didn't know Miami Beach had changed so much. It's really a beautiful, really lovely, property. If you like the young-and-beautiful crowd, and you don't mind spending lots of money when on vacation, its perfect. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Those who like that kind of thing will find it the kind of thing they like." I don't want to be critical of it; it is perfect for the crowd it aims for. I am just not a member of that crowd. At 35, I felt too old.

But then my vacation haunt pretty much since the Concord closed (unless I got a deal on Kutchers, anyway) was the recently-incinerated Inn At Pocono Manor, which had one of the finest restaurants in the Poconos, a nice-enough pool, and the kind of patronage that allowed one to have the pool to themselves, sometimes for hours at a time. I guess golfers don't like swimming.
 

Bob Dylan

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I did that last September on the Silver Meteor. I did a small bucket-list trip that involved riding the Meteor the whole length (never had quite done that before) and spending a couple of nights at Morris Lapidus's masterpiece (that would be the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach). The train ride was good, if the food a bit disapointing. The hotel was a contradiction.

I always wanted to stay there because of its architecture, as well as the crowd that once went there (the ones that are mostly altakaka yentas if they are still alive nowadays) which is a crowd I missed quite a bit since Kutcher's became the last of the Borscht belt to close about 6 or 7 years ago. My preferences for entertainment align with them, and they don't engage in the loud types of partying people my age tend to favor. Also they tend to be a bit tight with money, making the places they frequent not quite as outrageously expensive as the ones aimed at the young-and-trying-to-prove-their-wealth crowd.

I didn't know Miami Beach had changed so much. It's really a beautiful, really lovely, property. If you like the young-and-beautiful crowd, and you don't mind spending lots of money when on vacation, its perfect. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Those who like that kind of thing will find it the kind of thing they like." I don't want to be critical of it; it is perfect for the crowd it aims for. I am just not a member of that crowd. At 35, I felt too old.

But then my vacation haunt pretty much since the Concord closed (unless I got a deal on Kutchers, anyway) was the recently-incinerated Inn At Pocono Manor, which had one of the finest restaurants in the Poconos, a nice-enough pool, and the kind of patronage that allowed one to have the pool to themselves, sometimes for hours at a time. I guess golfers don't like swimming.
I still remember going up into the Catskills in the Summer ( while stationed in Conn) and attending a few Shows @ the Famous Jewish Resort/Horels where so many famous Comedians performed.

I also got to see Wilt Chamberlain play Basketball ( think it was @ Kutchers??) since the Hotels hired College Athletes in the Summer to work @ Menial jobs and play Sports as Entertainment for the Husbands and Kids during the day.
 

Skyline

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Have their been any updates? Now that’s izaak Walton inn is reopening thinking about taking a trip. Would rather have traditional dining car food.

Great news that Walton is reopening. I was afraid the C-19 virus might be fatal to their business plan. It's an expensive place to keep operating, and their patronage ebbs and flows a lot even during normal times.

The Walton Inn may not have fully "traditional dining car food," but you won't be disappointed. Not sure what kind of C-19 modifications to their dining is being considered, but it will likely involve social distancing and elimination of up to 50% of seating. Same as most restaurants.
 

Barb Stout

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Great news that Walton is reopening. I was afraid the C-19 virus might be fatal to their business plan. It's an expensive place to keep operating, and their patronage ebbs and flows a lot even during normal times.

The Walton Inn may not have fully "traditional dining car food," but you won't be disappointed. Not sure what kind of C-19 modifications to their dining is being considered, but it will likely involve social distancing and elimination of up to 50% of seating. Same as most restaurants.
I would imagine if the dining area is "full", you could get takeout to take back to your caboose room. That might be just as fun.
 

crescent-zephyr

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To be clear, I was asking about dining on the trains that I would be taking to get to the lodge.

I doubt the lodge will be full with everything going on right now, so probably not too difficult to keep the restaurant at 50%.
 

MARC Rider

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The Boston Amtrak Lounge is definitely a historic marvel from the golden era; and personal favorite. The large photographs on the walls portray earlier times; the restored architecture is American Classic at its best. And not to be overlooked are the generous snacks, munchies, candy bars and wide assortment of the day's newspapers. Comfortable, spacious, and never crowded... perfect beginning for the Lake Shore journey to Chicago!

View attachment 17412
View attachment 17413
Well, maybe, but for me, it's the perfect beginning for an Acela ride to Baltimore. Or a great place to hang out while I wait for Enterprise to pick me up to get my rental car.
 

MARC Rider

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No, but they shouldn't expect to pay for it anyway as its cost is included in the fare. And they should expect to receive a decent meal even if Amtrak has to pick up takeout from a place along the way.
It's similar to hotels that normally provide breakfast and other amenities. The ethical ones lower their prices when those things are not available, notify people when making reservations, or provide some sort of compensation without being asked (points, cash. vouchers). I've experienced that in a number of cases.
I still remember the New York Marriott when they had a computer failure and people had to wait an hour or more to check-in. They came around to everyone on line and offered soft drinks and snacks. Then when you got to the front of the line, you were offered choice of money off room rate, a bundle of points or, if I remember correctly, some free drinks in the bar. Nice gesture! And it was offered up front without being asked and before you even were asked your name. Pro-active offers make for good customer relations and encourage people to return when the problem is resolved.
Sorry, customers don't "deserve" anything. The only reason any business would want to go to the trouble of providing service unrelated to their business is because they think it will attract more net revenue. If it doesn't do that, than why bother. We've just spent the past 25 years in the airline industry experiencing incredible degradation of service, and until this epidemic hit, the airline industry was making money hand over fist. Why the hell should they waste money providing "service" when the rubes are going to fly anyway, and the managers and investors in the company can pocket that money?
 

Green Maned Lion

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Excuse me, but lets talk about airlines for a moment. I'd like to discuss what making money hand over fist would be; Can we agree for a moment that making at least five times the return on a US Treasury Bond on their assets, which is among the safest place to put your money, would be required? I think that's a fair assessment. Ok then.

For last year, selected domestic airlines

30 year US Treasury Bond Yield: 1.37% = base line of 6.89%
United Airlines- net profit 2.43%, return on assets 3.84%
American Airlines- net profit -1.69%, return on assets 2.21%
Delta Air Lines- Net Profit 7.76%, return on assets 5.07%
Southwest Airlines- Net Profit 8.46%, return on assets 5.47%
Average: Net Profit 4.24%, return on assets: 4.15%

Airlines don't make money hand-over-fist, and have not done so for decades. Period, end of discussion. There is a massive amount of capital investment, a huge amount of labor cost, tons of required maintenance, and a strong pressure to keep the prices of everything down. I admit Southwest would qualify as doing ok, but the rest of those four selected companies are businesses I- and Warren Buffet- do not recommend investing in.

Amtrak's fair box recovery is 94% roughly last year; it would be fairly reasonable to express that average as 104.24% fare box recovery for airlines. Profitable, sure. Hand over fist? Hardly.
 
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Sorry if I missed it somewhere. Has anyone taken sleeper service on the CL or SM during Covid? Hoping you can still have meals delivered to your room. Any information would be most appreciated. Planning trip in Nov/Dec. Thanks in advance.
 

Thirdrail7

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Hoping you can still have meals delivered to your room.
They are encouraging people to eat in their room and/or at their seats.

It also seems a great deal of the cafes and lounges cars have gone carry out. The tables/booths in the lounge/cafe will not be available for use.
 

me_little_me

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Sorry, customers don't "deserve" anything. The only reason any business would want to go to the trouble of providing service unrelated to their business is because they think it will attract more net revenue. If it doesn't do that, than why bother. We've just spent the past 25 years in the airline industry experiencing incredible degradation of service, and until this epidemic hit, the airline industry was making money hand over fist. Why the hell should they waste money providing "service" when the rubes are going to fly anyway, and the managers and investors in the company can pocket that money?
I disagree. You do NOT just pay for transportation. Amtrak advertises what's included in the cost. When they fail to provide that which is advertised at the time you purchase your tickets, they may have words in the contract forced upon you (and it is forced upon you in that you agree or don't use their services as buried in their terms of contract) but they morally and possibly legally should be required to provided that service or compensate you for the loss. Now, once they change their advertising and their list of what is actually provided to clearly indicate what is now provided, then, if you make a reservation, you are entitled to only what is included. Anything else is dishonest and unethical IMHO and the only reason they get away with it is the predominance of sleazy lawyers and executives, the control of the market by getting rid of competition, and their ability to manipulate the laws against those with lesser or no power.
I would expect a government corporation (and think it's just semantics to claim it is anything else) to provide a better standard of honesty and ethics (yes, I know, ethics, lawmakers and politicians constitute a plethora of oxymorons) than the typical corporation and set an example of honest and fair business dealings.
Yes, most companies provide "amenities" outside of their main business to attract customers. That doesn't mean that someone that took them up on that offer should be deprived of that amenity because the company decided it would or could not provide it as the cost of that amenity is priced into the product. If the company can't or won't provide what they said they would, then compensation is in order. Advertising a service and selling tickets based on that advertised service then pulling the plug on that service without compensation to those rightly expecting it is dishonest. Once someone has purchased a ticket, they are usually committed to other related expenses so it is not sufficient to tell them that they can get their money back (and Amtrak only does that for Covid) but did not do it for the change in the food service when they introduced the new "flex dining" even though they saved money in both cases by changing service levels.
 
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MARC Rider

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Actually, I don't think Amtrak has any legal obligation to offer any food service at all. Look at the fine print on the conditions of carriage or whatever they call it, I'm sure all they're obligated to do is get you to the destination.

Every transportation provider is cutting back on the amenities due to Covid-19. I just read an article in the Washington Post of a reporter's account of a repatriation flight she took from France back to the US. Air France offered NO food and beverage service on one segment, and tossed shrink-wrapped sandwiches to the passengers on the other flight. No inflight service on the domestic leg on Delta, either. She didn't say what she had to pay for the flights, but it didn't sound like she got any discount for the reduced service. She seemed to be happy just to be able to get home in one piece.

Under the current conditions, the less interaction between crew and passengers, the better in order to prevent spread of the virus, and the crew are at far greater risk than the passengers, because they're on board, being exposed to different people every day. Under these conditions, contemporary flex meals, for all their shortcomings, are perfectly fine. And it really displays a rather self-absorbed sense of entitlement to whine about this sort of thing when we're lucky we still have reliable transportation around the country, even during a so-called "lockdown."
 

MARC Rider

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Excuse me, but lets talk about airlines for a moment. I'd like to discuss what making money hand over fist would be; Can we agree for a moment that making at least five times the return on a US Treasury Bond on their assets, which is among the safest place to put your money, would be required? I think that's a fair assessment. Ok then.

For last year, selected domestic airlines

30 year US Treasury Bond Yield: 1.37% = base line of 6.89%
United Airlines- net profit 2.43%, return on assets 3.84%
American Airlines- net profit -1.69%, return on assets 2.21%
Delta Air Lines- Net Profit 7.76%, return on assets 5.07%
Southwest Airlines- Net Profit 8.46%, return on assets 5.47%
Average: Net Profit 4.24%, return on assets: 4.15%

Airlines don't make money hand-over-fist, and have not done so for decades. Period, end of discussion. There is a massive amount of capital investment, a huge amount of labor cost, tons of required maintenance, and a strong pressure to keep the prices of everything down. I admit Southwest would qualify as doing ok, but the rest of those four selected companies are businesses I- and Warren Buffet- do not recommend investing in.

Amtrak's fair box recovery is 94% roughly last year; it would be fairly reasonable to express that average as 104.24% fare box recovery for airlines. Profitable, sure. Hand over fist? Hardly.
Well, that may be true, but they seemed to have enough cash on hand to be able to do all those stock buybacks that out their companies in peril when this crisis hit, and I'm sure their top executives are well compensated.
 

Chatter163

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I did that last September on the Silver Meteor. I did a small bucket-list trip that involved riding the Meteor the whole length (never had quite done that before) and spending a couple of nights at Morris Lapidus's masterpiece (that would be the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach). The train ride was good, if the food a bit disapointing. The hotel was a contradiction.

I always wanted to stay there because of its architecture, as well as the crowd that once went there (the ones that are mostly altakaka yentas if they are still alive nowadays) which is a crowd I missed quite a bit since Kutcher's became the last of the Borscht belt to close about 6 or 7 years ago. My preferences for entertainment align with them, and they don't engage in the loud types of partying people my age tend to favor. Also they tend to be a bit tight with money, making the places they frequent not quite as outrageously expensive as the ones aimed at the young-and-trying-to-prove-their-wealth crowd.

I didn't know Miami Beach had changed so much. It's really a beautiful, really lovely, property. If you like the young-and-beautiful crowd, and you don't mind spending lots of money when on vacation, its perfect. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Those who like that kind of thing will find it the kind of thing they like." I don't want to be critical of it; it is perfect for the crowd it aims for. I am just not a member of that crowd. At 35, I felt too old.

But then my vacation haunt pretty much since the Concord closed (unless I got a deal on Kutchers, anyway) was the recently-incinerated Inn At Pocono Manor, which had one of the finest restaurants in the Poconos, a nice-enough pool, and the kind of patronage that allowed one to have the pool to themselves, sometimes for hours at a time. I guess golfers don't like swimming.
I worked at the Fontainebleau for many years while it was a Hilton. I was the unofficial staff historian, so I was conversant about the hotel and Miami Beach, during the glory days of the fifties and sixties, the decline in the seventies, and rebirth in the eighties and nineties. I left Miami in 2003, was back several times over the decade that followed, and was given a complete tour of the completelay refurbished hotel in 2013. I hope to be back at the end of next month.
 

Green Maned Lion

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Well, that may be true, but they seemed to have enough cash on hand to be able to do all those stock buybacks that out their companies in peril when this crisis hit, and I'm sure their top executives are well compensated.
Their top executives are overcompensated; that is one of the reasons their profit margins, like far too many US corporations, are razor thin. Unfortunately, in our market, "standard" compensation for these types of positions have become ludicrous. The problem with that is you are essentially required to pay those ludicrous prices to recruit top talent, because you are competing with other companies that are willing to pay such silly salaries and bonuses. I think there should be regulation and taxation that discourages such absurd compensations... but they are the industry norm now, and as such are a legitimate, if unfortunate, cost of doing business.

The only fair way to judge a company's monetary health is its profit margin and its return on assets. Otherwise you can have a company like Wal-Mart who has pathetic profits for the money involved being compared to a company like Boscov's which makes a fraction of what Wal-Mart does- but who has a healthy profit margin. The problem with a direct dollars to dollars comparison is Boscov's is a small 50-store chain whose yearly revenue isn't as large as Wal-Mart's net profit.

A tiny percentage of profit, however, can result in a sizable-sounding amount of money that can be poorly reinvested in such financial shenanigans as share buybacks.

Let me put it another way: Is a billion dollars a lot of money? The answer is, unequivocally, it depends. As a private citizen, as your asset number, yeah, heck of a lot of money. To build a high speed line from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles? Absurdly cheap. That's under $3 per person living in America.

Is a trillion dollars a lot of money? Under most circumstances, yes. If it was our gross domestic product, god help us. See my point?

I worked at the Fontainebleau for many years while it was a Hilton. I was the unofficial staff historian, so I was conversant about the hotel and Miami Beach, during the glory days of the fifties and sixties, the decline in the seventies, and rebirth in the eighties and nineties. I left Miami in 2003, was back several times over the decade that followed, and was given a complete tour of the completelay refurbished hotel in 2013. I hope to be back at the end of next month.
As I said, it truly is a beautiful property, just not my cup of tea.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Actually, I don't think Amtrak has any legal obligation to offer any food service at all. Look at the fine print on the conditions of carriage or whatever they call it, I'm sure all they're obligated to do is get you to the destination.
Amtrak sleeping car prices include meals. They can’t stop providing meals and charge the same price. They can, and are, lowering the quality of said meals. There is no guarantee of a particular menu, but they do have to provide the basics of what they advertised.
 
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They are encouraging people to eat in their room and/or at their seats.

It also seems a great deal of the cafes and lounges cars have gone carry out. The tables/booths in the lounge/cafe will not be available for use.
Thanks for the information.
 

jis

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Amtrak's fair box recovery is 94% roughly last year; it would be fairly reasonable to express that average as 104.24% fare box recovery for airlines. Profitable, sure. Hand over fist? Hardly.
Also, the consistent profitability of airlines is a relatively recent phenomenon, after most of them have transitioned their service profile to align better with LCC level services domestically from the sort of service that folks here seem to insist Amtrak must provide. Is there some sort of a subliminal message hidden there somewhere? Who knows? ;)
 

jis

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Amtrak sleeping car prices include meals. They can’t stop providing meals and charge the same price. They can, and are, lowering the quality of said meals. There is no guarantee of a particular menu, but they do have to provide the basics of what they advertised.
Of course they can. All that they have to do is announce that they are withdrawing complementary food service, and then we can watch this site explode.

Of course it is probably not the best way to achieve that. A more prudent way would be to drop the price some like they did with the Star, and then gently raise the fare to the previous level over many months. Frog in a pan full of water on a stove typically will sit there until it is too late to jump out.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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Of course they can. All that they have to do is announce that they are withdrawing complementary food service, and then we can watch this site explode.

Of course it is probably not the best way to achieve that. A more prudent way would be to drop the price some like they did with the Star, and then gently raise the fare to the previous level over may months. Frog in a pan full of water on a stove typically will sit there until it is too late to jump out.
Well yeah, if they don’t advertise a service they don’t have to provide it.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Well.... I just spent some time over at FlyerTalk and people are getting pretty much nothing on the major airlines. Bag of cheezits and a bottle of water in delta first class!

If the airlines, hotels, and Amtrak don’t want our business, then the travel industry will never recover.
 
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