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Flexible dining - Requesting a review from a recent rider

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fdaley

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 25, 2020
Messages
72
Na, the robotic management team... they just don't care. You know... it's the government bureaucracy.

And like you, part of the fun of the travel were those meals... railroad french toast drowning in butter and syrup for breakfast, delicious angus burgers at lunch, and a steak dinner... while watching the world fly by. What? the price hasn't gone down? Not in anyway desperate to take the train. Bring back quality, customer respect/appreciation, and delicious food or I'm gone. Maybe its time to focus on car trip vacations allowing freedom and control when traveling.

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The car has advantages -- including that one can poke around at railroad sites along the way, at least to the extent one's family will tolerate it. But If it's a trip of more than 2-4 hours, I really do get weary of being behind the wheel. The train by comparison was a pleasure. And it's not that I'm looking for white-tablecloth service, though I wouldn't object to that. The dining service Amtrak was offering prior to 2018 was perfectly adequate, and occasionally, especially 5-15 years ago, inspired. What they're offering now is just an insult.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
705
Location
Oregon Coast
I see that the House of Representatives is looking at legislation to require Amtrak to have regular dining cars again.

Instead of micro-managing Amtrak, the Federal government should just give it its grant and let Amtrak do what it wants to maximize revenues and minimize losses. I'd guess that something in-between Flexible Dining and made-to-order meals would maximize profits. Amtrak has had some pretty capable CEOs lately. Just let them run their business!
They've had 'made to order meals' in the past which weren't too much better than the flex stuff. They need to have an adequately qualitative product... better management of funding allocation, less wasteful spending, and like most other countries... adequate government financial support. We must not lose site that railroads are a public service and one of the best one for the environment.

Hmmm... I wonder what the position of the candidates will be for the upcoming election???
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
705
Location
Oregon Coast
The car has advantages -- including that one can poke around at railroad sites along the way, at least to the extent one's family will tolerate it. But If it's a trip of more than 2-4 hours, I really do get weary of being behind the wheel. The train by comparison was a pleasure. And it's not that I'm looking for white-tablecloth service, though I wouldn't object to that. The dining service Amtrak was offering prior to 2018 was perfectly adequate, and occasionally, especially 5-15 years ago, inspired. What they're offering now is just an insult.
Right on - we're all saying the same thing!!!
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,259
I see that the House of Representatives is looking at legislation to require Amtrak to have regular dining cars again.

Instead of micro-managing Amtrak, the Federal government should just give it its grant and let Amtrak do what it wants to maximize revenues and minimize losses. I'd guess that something in-between Flexible Dining and made-to-order meals would maximize profits. Amtrak has had some pretty capable CEOs lately. Just let them run their business!
The problem is that the CEOs are not running their business - unless you consider running down their business or running their company out of business or ruining their business to be running it.

WE THE TAXPAYERS OWN Amtrak. WE have the right to request our representatives to STOP Amtrak from doing something that is in our opinion bad for us and the country.
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
705
Location
Oregon Coast
I see that the House of Representatives is looking at legislation to require Amtrak to have regular dining cars again.

Instead of micro-managing Amtrak, the Federal government should just give it its grant and let Amtrak do what it wants to maximize revenues and minimize losses. I'd guess that something in-between Flexible Dining and made-to-order meals would maximize profits. Amtrak has had some pretty capable CEOs lately. Just let them run their business!
They need to go back to having a quality product and the pre made meals went over like a lead balloon. It's all about maximizing and stretching funding to get the best possible product for the customer. It also will take a more positive attitude from the government realizing that passenger service is a national state run service for the benefit of the citizenry; also realizing that passenger trains are the best mode of transportation to support the environment.

All that being said, and not bringing in politics, what transpires during the next election could be essential for the survival of Amtrak. The incumbent wants to cut out LD entirely; the other has supported Amtrak in the past. Lots more discussion will ensue I'm sure. It may be fair to say that as rail enthusiasts on this site... 'we're all pretty much in this together.'
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
705
Location
Oregon Coast
The problem is that the CEOs are not running their business - unless you consider running down their business or running their company out of business or ruining their business to be running it.

WE THE TAXPAYERS OWN Amtrak. WE have the right to request our representatives to STOP Amtrak from doing something that is in our opinion bad for us and the country.
Bravo! Totally agree with you!!!
 

20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
705
Location
Oregon Coast
I see that the House of Representatives is looking at legislation to require Amtrak to have regular dining cars again.

Instead of micro-managing Amtrak, the Federal government should just give it its grant and let Amtrak do what it wants to maximize revenues and minimize losses. I'd guess that something in-between Flexible Dining and made-to-order meals would maximize profits. Amtrak has had some pretty capable CEOs lately. Just let them run their business!
It's clear Amtrak needs to be supported by the government with greater priority for rail travel as a service to the citizenry and as a responsibility to the environment.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
It’s important to note that there are multiple complaints.

You can cut table service and still provide the old menu by keeping the chef and the lsa. That cuts the server positions and the table service but keeps the pre-flex quality.

Even with cutting the chef position and going to all pre-packaged food you can offer a quality product. What is being offered is not quality.
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
The problem is that the CEOs are not running their business - unless you consider running down their business or running their company out of business or ruining their business to be running it.

WE THE TAXPAYERS OWN Amtrak. WE have the right to request our representatives to STOP Amtrak from doing something that is in our opinion bad for us and the country.
We have the right to ask our representatives anything, but that doesn't mean that letting Congress micro-manage Amtrak will result in a better Amtrak.

What if Congress tells Amtrak to have meal service meeting criteria X, Y and Z, even if Amtrak's CEO is aware that meeting criteria X, Y and Z is not cost-effective and money could be spent elsewhere for more impact?

Or what if Congress is controlled by people hostile to your views?

In neither event would Amtrak be best off.

Passenger rail experts, not 535 Congresspeople who may know little if anything about railroading, should decide how Amtrak should spend its money, and funds should be given to Amtrak to do as it pleases (as long as basic service criteria are met).
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
Passenger rail experts, not 535 Congresspeople who may know little if anything about railroading, should decide how Amtrak should spend its money, and funds should be given to Amtrak to do as it pleases (as long as basic service criteria are met).
That’s the problem... what is basic service criteria? TV dinners and no checked baggage in towns like Greenville South Carolina do not meet basic service criteria in my definition.
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
That’s the problem... what is basic service criteria? TV dinners and no checked baggage in towns like Greenville South Carolina do not meet basic service criteria in my definition.
That’s a fair point.

In my view, “basic service criteria” would just be an obligation to have stations within 10 miles of maybe 85% of the US population, served by trains at least once a day in each direction. Everything else would be up to Amtrak.

But if you want to get more detailed, fine.

Two things I dislike are Congress telling Amtrak that (1) losses on food are prohibited and (2) ticket prices have to be within a certain minimum and maximum. Get rid of those 2 requirements and Amtrak could be much better off.

I don’t care about no checked baggage in Greenville (my home station); ridership at that station is so low that it’s hard to justify. But if that matters to you, understood.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
I don’t care about no checked baggage in Greenville (my home station); ridership at that station is so low that it’s hard to justify. But if that matters to you, understood.
Oh small world! I typically visit Greenville every year for Artisphere... this year that wasn’t the case of course :(

If the ridership is so low, why do they justify a train station at all?
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
Oh small world! I typically visit Greenville every year for Artisphere... this year that wasn’t the case of course :(

If the ridership is so low, why do they justify a train station at all?
Thanks for coming to support my hometown!

Well, it's a pretty decent-size city and train ridership has potential. The current station is in a Norfolk Southern building, so maintenance costs must be minimal.

It just could be so much more, instead of a nondescript, lightly-used train station that feels like it's at the end of the earth, in a dodgy area.
 
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OlympianHiawatha

Conductor
Joined
Feb 7, 2008
Messages
4,286
Location
Norman, OK
I have booked a trip to South Dakota for later this month. I will be taking the Freedom Flyer Northbound (actually North by Northwest) and the Liberty Express back home. I will actually serve as the entire operating crew but will not know the equipment until Enterprise rolls it out of the Norman OK master yard. The Dining Car offerings will vary by the region I am in during each mealtime, and it will offer spacious sit down seating. And a few different sleeping accomodations are available, again all spacious, and I have booked different ones to give them all a try.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
I'm planning on $10/day, at the end of the trip to cut down on cash handling, same as the SCA.

Almost everyone in the sleepers is taking meals to go.

Today I was in the diner for one meal, tipped $5.
Won't the attendant serve you your meals in your room, i.e. room service? You have to physically go to the dining car to get the food and carry it back?
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
Won't the attendant serve you your meals in your room, i.e. room service? You have to physically go to the dining car to get the food and carry it back?
In my experience, it varies. Sometimes you are required to pick it up yourself; sometimes you are banned from picking it up yourself. Sometimes you have a choice. It’s confusing.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
I called Amtrak about this. I was told by a supervisor that they MUST serve you in your room and that this is the PREFERRED way of providing meals... but Amtrak of course is chaotic so anything goes.
I would like some information on Kosher meals. Has anyone had them?
Is there coffee available in sleeping cars?
Can ice be obtained anywhere?
Is there bottled water?
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
28
I called Amtrak about this. I was told by a supervisor that they MUST serve you in your room and that this is the PREFERRED way of providing meals... but Amtrak of course is chaotic so anything goes.
I would like some information on Kosher meals. Has anyone had them?
Is there coffee available in sleeping cars?
Can ice be obtained anywhere?
Is there bottled water?
Coffee: sometimes it's available in sleeping cars, sometimes not. You can get it in the café car. I'm not sure if it's free or not unless you get it with a meal. It often comes with a side of attitude.
Bottled water: usually, but not always, bottles are in your room when you board.
Ice can be obtained in cafe cars, at least when you buy or otherwise get a drink.
 

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
8,147
Location
South Florida
I have booked a trip to South Dakota for later this month. I will be taking the Freedom Flyer Northbound (actually North by Northwest) and the Liberty Express back home. I will actually serve as the entire operating crew but will not know the equipment until Enterprise rolls it out of the Norman OK master yard. The Dining Car offerings will vary by the region I am in during each mealtime, and it will offer spacious sit down seating. And a few different sleeping accomodations are available, again all spacious, and I have booked different ones to give them all a try.
Check the date...you missed April First....
 

tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,103
Location
Spring Creek, NC
Thanks for coming to support my hometown!

Well, it's a pretty decent-size city and train ridership has potential. The current station is in a Norfolk Southern building, so maintenance costs must be minimal.

It just could be so much more, instead of a nondescript, lightly-used train station that feels like it's at the end of the earth, in a dodgy area.
Only two trains a day, with southbound arriving at 4:?? AM and northbound usually late, after midnight. It's also the closest Amtrak to Asheville, and has a parking lot where I've left a vehicle many times for a week or more, for free. Even so, I've never boarded or got off alone, and sometimes there've been dozens of other passengers.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
In my experience, it varies. Sometimes you are required to pick it up yourself; sometimes you are banned from picking it up yourself. Sometimes you have a choice. It’s confusing.
That’s the Amtrak way!!!

With flex dining you are supposed to be able to get complimentary drinks from the diner. In my experience my sca would offer to get me one now and then, or the lsa in the diner would grudgingly get out of her booth and get me a coffee.
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
263
Location
Michigan
Won't the attendant serve you your meals in your room, i.e. room service? You have to physically go to the dining car to get the food and carry it back?
Yes, the dining car attendant takes your order and brings it to you in a take-out bag.

If you elect to dine in the dining car, they will ask for your room number and bring your meal to the table.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
Joined
Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,683
Yes, the dining car attendant takes your order and brings it to you in a take-out bag
In my experience the sleeping car attendant takes the orders and delivers the food. This was the case when I ate in my room, and when I ate in the diner.

For breakfast I helped myself and ordered coffee and yogurt from the lsa behind the counter who was annoyed when I asked a question about the menu.

As usual, your crew will make up their own rules as they see fit so just go with it and tip accordingly.

In my case I tipped $20 to the sca (1 overnight) and $0 to the LSA.
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
263
Location
Michigan
I called Amtrak about this. I was told by a supervisor that they MUST serve you in your room and that this is the PREFERRED way of providing meals... but Amtrak of course is chaotic so anything goes.
I would like some information on Kosher meals. Has anyone had them?
Is there coffee available in sleeping cars?
Can ice be obtained anywhere?
Is there bottled water?
On my July 1-2 CZ trip:

No idea on Kosher meals.

Coffee was *not* available in sleeping cars because of COVID. You could get it from the dining car if there was an attendant OR for free from the Cafe in the lounge car if you told them you were in the sleepers.

Ice was not available.

Bottled water was *everywhere* in the sleepers.

The dining car staff also told me I could request anything from the SCA by pushing the call button in my room. Under normal times, you would hit that button if you wanted dinner in your room.
 
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