Flexible dining - Requesting a review from a recent rider

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me_little_me

Conductor
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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.
It's my home station too but why the "poor" ridership?

I've noticed it has decreased due to the lack of baggage handling any more. Also the change in the food has made sleeper passengers like me reduce our use of the station and consider driving to where we can catch a daytime train and spend a LOT less for the overnight accommodations and get good food off-train. When we have to pay for the food now, we pay and carry onboard.

Its bad hours (5AM SB and 11PM NB) are bad enough but the NB train is almost always 2 hours late due to NS in Alabama/Mississippi and boarding at 1AM is no fun for someone who has done it often enough.

The poor average "quality" of the onboard SCAs and staff doesn't help.

Now some things are the problem of the city and state including lack of support.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
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.
This is normally what happens. My impression is that the new rules are on account of COVID, Amtrak wants to cut down on the number of potential contacts people have.

Frankly, for cross country travel, I can't think of a safer way than a sleeping car right now.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
Messages
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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.
There is absolutely a way to do this--just look at how airlines prepare first class meals. Everything still comes in foil from the catering company and is heated on board, but the freshness and presentation (which is just the stewardesses) makes all the difference.

Amtrak *can* partner with local vendors along the route to have prepared trays of meals in a similar fashion. For the sleeper cars, orders can be taken and since the local vendors will know (with some certainty) about delays, they can prepare meals around meal times when they know the train is going to be there.

As an *emergency backup* Amtrak can have other options on board.
 

PVD

Conductor
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Jul 8, 2015
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4,628
It doesn't need to be local or enroute to improve. Airlines fly very long legs with the meals put on board for the whole trip. You have to want to do it. 16 hour flights with 300 passengers leave JFK every day (well until a few months ago)
 

TheCrescent

Train Attendant
Joined
Jun 24, 2020
Messages
24
It's my home station too but why the "poor" ridership?

I've noticed it has decreased due to the lack of baggage handling any more. Also the change in the food has made sleeper passengers like me reduce our use of the station and consider driving to where we can catch a daytime train and spend a LOT less for the overnight accommodations and get good food off-train. When we have to pay for the food now, we pay and carry onboard.

Its bad hours (5AM SB and 11PM NB) are bad enough but the NB train is almost always 2 hours late due to NS in Alabama/Mississippi and boarding at 1AM is no fun for someone who has done it often enough.

The poor average "quality" of the onboard SCAs and staff doesn't help.

Now some things are the problem of the city and state including lack of support.
I think that Amtrak has zero visibility in Greenville. Very few people know that it exists and there’s no wonder: an out-of-the-way station in a bad area with trains at bad hours. Conversely, in Clemson the station is in the middle of town and you can’t escape knowing that trains come through there.

It’s too bad because the times are actually OK for a long day trip to Atlanta or a trip to Washington.

Given how unpleasant the Amtrak experience is I’m not sure if marketing or more visibility would do anything other than create first-time riders who don’t return, though. I prefer trains generally but even I am not looking forward to my next rattlebox trip and Flexible Dining breakfast.
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
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Mar 5, 2014
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Two things I dislike are Congress telling Amtrak that (1) losses on food are prohibited
Just a thought: Both Houses of Congress have restaurants. I wonder if those restaurants break even, make money, or loose money.

Don't know about both parties, but I am sure that one political party normally has a caucus luncheon each week when possible. Who pays for that luncheon?
 

Bob Dylan

Conductor
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May 31, 2009
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20,014
Just a thought: Both Houses of Congress have restaurants. I wonder if those restaurants break even, make money, or loose money.

Don't know about both parties, but I am sure that one political party normally has a caucus luncheon each week when possible. Who pays for that luncheon?
We the People pay for these "Royals" to Live like Kings and Queens!
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
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IMG_20200707_085757.jpg

Well, I spoke a little too soon on breakfast. This LSA wants us to have breakfast in the dining car, and apparently is just dropping a cup of hot water for us.

I know I could have called the SCA for breakfast in my room, but I hate bothering.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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View attachment 17952

Well, I spoke a little too soon on breakfast. This LSA wants us to have breakfast in the dining car, and apparently is just dropping a cup of hot water for us.

I know I could have called the SCA for breakfast in my room, but I hate bothering.
Now there’s the classy Amtrak service I know and love!

And that’s the problem with Amtrak.... it’s so darn inconsistent.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
IMG_20200706_175103.jpg

This is the Shrimp in Lobster Sauce: "Pan seared shrimp with Parisian carrots, Haricot verts and confetti rice. Served in a brandied lobster sauce."

This one was actually the best I've had so far. The sauce had a pretty good flavor to it, it was not overly salty or sweet.

Only bummer this time was that the Blondie was not warmed up. It's way better warmed up a touch.

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Another change between the 5 and the 6, we lost the Newman's own dressings...but these sizes seem more appropriate for the side salad.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
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Another change between the 5 and the 6, we lost the Newman's own dressings...but these sizes seem more appropriate for the side salad.
Yup... I figured the Newman’s was the old stock they were getting rid of. Can’t keep anything too nice around right? ;)
 

Devil's Advocate

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May 24, 2010
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11,442
Frankly, for cross country travel, I can't think of a safer way than a sleeping car right now.
What I would like to see in the future is a move toward improved filtration and ventilation for long distance passenger rail hardware. That way airborne contamination would be less of an issue, whether related to an inodorous pandemic or a pungent sewage tank retrofit. 😷🤢

I figured the Newman’s was the old stock they were getting rid of. Can’t keep anything too nice around right?
Presumably the bring it from home crowd will chime in at some point but consider how silly this is becoming. Where I live you can't purchase single-use dressing packets in personal use quantities. You can buy a single bottle with fifty uses but who wants to carry something that can leak and ruin everything in your suitcase? Not to mention you probably want to keep it chilled after opening to avoid problems.

Ice was not available.
Oh well. I realize for some people it's worth it to just keep bringing more goods and workarounds as amenities and services are rolled back but at some point it starts to become a serious nuisance.
 
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Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
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IMG_20200707_133152.jpg

Good news! There's butter now, and ice!!!

Here's the Enchiladas, the "Vegan and Healthy Option"

"Corn tortillas filled with plant based protein, black beans, corn and cheese enchiladas with yellow rice and ancho chili sauce"

So this was shockingly not as bad as I had thought it would be. The sauce was not overly salty and had a discernable chili-like flavor with a mild heat. The tortillas we're consistently firm (but dry). I had no idea what the protein was or what it's taste was, it just seemed to be bean-like and essentially a sponge for the flavor of the sauce. The texture was surprisingly not plastic. Overall the rice was the most disappointing bit, just a bit overdone.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
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Dec 25, 2019
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IMG_20200707_170634.jpg

Here's the Creole Shrimp and Andouille (with a few bites taken out)

"Shrimp and Andouille sausage served with yellow rice, peppers, onions and green onions in a spicy Creole sauce."

So far, this is my favorite. The Shrimp and Sausage were on point, firm and flavorful. The sauce actually had a good heat to it, wasn't salty and added to the shrimp and sausage. The rice was, again, a disappointment and the advertised vegetables were not terribly noticeable in this one.

Shocking, but the two Shrimp dishes seem to be the winners so far.
 

PVD

Conductor
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Thanks for posting, everyone seems to have opinions, it is nice to get an up to date report on what is really out there. Wish we nutrition info, prepared foods of all quality levels seem to be loaded with sodium, added sugars, and too much saturated fats. some of us have to plan it out carefully. At least the food is palatable.
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 19, 2016
Messages
836
Amtrak Roomette - $415
Delta $426
Am curious, between which 2 cities is this price comparison (between Delta 1st class and an Amtrak roomette) for?

And someone else in this thread(but on the previous page) said the Asian Noodle Bowl had been removed, from the flex dining menu. Too bad, since myself I kinda thought I might try that on a future Amtrak trip, w/flex dining. It's too bad I really worry the traditional dining car menu may not come back, on all of Amtrak's long distance trains. :( And cost cutting moves like this, really will hurt ridership down the road.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
And someone else in this thread(but on the previous page) said the Asian Noodle Bowl had been removed, from the flex dining menu.
You could order it on the CZ as of this week in July, both ways.

I reviewed it early in this thread on my way out here.

It's kind of disappointing.
 

dogbert617

OBS Chief
Joined
Aug 19, 2016
Messages
836
You could order it on the CZ as of this week in July, both ways.

I reviewed it early in this thread on my way out here.

It's kind of disappointing.
I'll have to reread your post where you reviewed eating that, and other flex menu dishes. It's too bad about the dining car downgrades, since that will make me think long and hard about upgrading for trips, where it's *borderline not too long where I could handle coach. And by the *, my borderline threshold would be 12-24 hours. Though I did once do a coach trip for 28-29 hours on one long distance train trip in the past, and survived fine.

These food downgrades with flex dining are disappointing, since inevitably this will hurt the number of people who opt to upgrade to a sleeper. Never mind I unfortunately am convinced that some of the Gardner/Anderson(know he's now gone, but for sure he thought this way)/etc types would probably kill off as many long distance trains as they could, if not for(thankfully) all the organized lobbying to keep these trains running.

And as for the Asian Noodle Bowl, I guess Amtrak is serving that on the CZ(and maybe other trains too) while supplies last? Then probably for all I know, phasing that out and moving on to a slightly different flex menu.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
Did they give any butter for it?
Just to confirm, they are offering butter on the #6 back to Chicago. I was on the #5, which didn't have butter.

However, they aren't heating up rolls or desserts on this train and this LSA wants butts in the dining car, they are making the SCAs pick up meals for those of us who don't want exposure.
 

Nick Farr

Train Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
90
as for the Asian Noodle Bowl, I guess Amtrak is serving that on the CZ(and maybe other trains too) while supplies last? Then probably for all I know, phasing that out and moving on to a slightly different flex menu.
According to the staff, the full eight item menu is on all western trains as of July 1.
 
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