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Inconsistent Service: A bigger problem than the food?

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Qapla

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For 3rd party food delivery to work there are some things that would be needed before the arrangements could be worked out:
  • Amtrak would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local eateries would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local delivery services would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Enough passengers at every "food stop" would have to "WANT" the service at that station.
Not sure there is that much desire to have such a large program instituted system wide
 

me_little_me

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For 3rd party food delivery to work there are some things that would be needed before the arrangements could be worked out:
  • Amtrak would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local eateries would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local delivery services would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Enough passengers at every "food stop" would have to "WANT" the service at that station.
Not sure there is that much desire to have such a large program instituted system wide
Well, the lack of the first one precludes any meaning to the others.

One would think there are restaurants out there that would want to increase their business.

Forget system-wide. Amtrak doesn't even want to come up with any ideas that would cost them little or nothing in an HONEST test. So the issue is a dead one.
 

Qapla

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Well, the lack of the first one precludes any meaning to the others.
That is why I listed that option first

I'm sure there are restaurants that want to increase their "profits" - not just their "business". If increasing the business cuts profit they are not so quick to jump on that.

An example of this is the JAX depot. The only "restaurants" close enough to make such food delivery viable are McDonalds and Krystal. Somehow, I just don't think there would be enough passengers onboard that would want food from either of these places to induce chain franchise stores like this interested in delivering to Amtrak - even if the train is on time. Not enough profit for the increased business work/expense
 

crescent-zephyr

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They wouldn’t necessarily be working with restaurants, they would be working with local caterers just like the empire builder had done in 3 separate cities for over 10 years.

In Jacksonville, RSVP catering is literally 4 miles from the station but sure... McDonalds is the only option.
 

MARC Rider

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That is why I listed that option first

I'm sure there are restaurants that want to increase their "profits" - not just their "business". If increasing the business cuts profit they are not so quick to jump on that.

An example of this is the JAX depot. The only "restaurants" close enough to make such food delivery viable are McDonalds and Krystal. Somehow, I just don't think there would be enough passengers onboard that would want food from either of these places to induce chain franchise stores like this interested in delivering to Amtrak - even if the train is on time. Not enough profit for the increased business work/expense
Read up about "ghost kitchens." The food service company doesn't necessarily have to be right near the station. It's apparently starting to be a big thing for the food service industry, as it's not clear when full in-house dining is going to be coming back. Looks like delivery type service is going to be the wave of the (near-term) future.

Also, the more complicated the logistics, the higher the cost, so the current flex dining system provided by one large nationwide caterer may be the best way to go. It's just that Amtrak needs to provide higher-quality platters and stop making unwarranted overhead charges to the food and beverage account.
 

Qapla

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In Jacksonville, RSVP catering is literally 4 miles from the station
That does not mean they are interested in providing meals for Amtrak ... catering corporates events in a facility with a well-planned calendared event is not the same as providing brown-bag lunches to a train when you never know much ahead of time how many and what type of meals will be wanted. Catering companies don't have "already prepared foods" available like restaurants do - Then again, maybe they would ... I haven't called them to ask so I really can't say for sure.
 

crescent-zephyr

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That does not mean they are interested in providing meals for Amtrak ... catering corporates events in a facility with a well-planned calendared event is not the same as providing brown-bag lunches to a train when you never know much ahead of time how many and what type of meals will be wanted. Catering companies don't have "already prepared foods" available like restaurants do - Then again, maybe they would ... I haven't called them to ask so I really can't say for sure.
That's literally what catering companies do.. they cater food.

You haven't ridden the Empire Builder and seen the catered meals loaded up in Portland (W), Spokane (E) or Montanna (E&W)?

Sorry if that comes off as short... it just seems like multiple posters are saying "that can't work" for things that worked just 12 months ago. I'm not saying catered food should be the future. I think good dining car food should be the future.

Amtrak can provide good quality food on the train right now, just order better food. It's that simple. The catering company can provide anything amtrak asks for.
 
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Qapla

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You haven't ridden the Empire Builder and seen the catered meals loaded up in Portland (W), Spokane (E) or Montanna (E&W)? ... Sorry if that comes off as short
No, that doesn't come off short.

You make a good point and I don't disagree that there "could" be some arrangements for quality food at "some" stops. However, the drift I have been getting from the posts about getting food delivered to the train is that it could/should be available at any/all stops when a passenger decides he is hungry - regardless of the time of day/night or proximity to established, willing food outlets.
 

crescent-zephyr

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No, that doesn't come off short.

You make a good point and I don't disagree that there "could" be some arrangements for quality food at "some" stops. However, the drift I have been getting from the posts about getting food delivered to the train is that it could/should be available at any/all stops when a passenger decides he is hungry - regardless of the time of day/night or proximity to established, willing food outlets.
Oh ok. I was probably reading your post wrong.

I’m thinking major terminals can load catered meals the way the empire builder has done. I don’t think that is the best solution but it’s better than flex dining imho. Even Panera bread / Jason’s deli box meals would be a huge improvement.

Ideally we could just have good food served by Amtrak though. It seems simple enough.
 

McIntyre2K7

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For 3rd party food delivery to work there are some things that would be needed before the arrangements could be worked out:
  • Amtrak would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local eateries would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Local delivery services would have to "WANT" to do this
  • Enough passengers at every "food stop" would have to "WANT" the service at that station.
Not sure there is that much desire to have such a large program instituted system wide
MARC Rider is right. So basically with this you could update the Amtrak app to include a "Trackside To-Go" section where if users are on either train they can have the option to order food from any of these destinations ahead of time. I guess you would stop taking hours 90 minutes before the trains scheduled arrival. So in this case the test trains would be the Crescent and the Coast Starlight. If the station is big enough you and there's extra space then maybe they could add a ghost kitchen in the in station. I've attached a short video about Ghost kitchens as well:


Crescent Southbound Train (19)

Dinner:
Washington, DC

Breakfast:
Atlanta, GA

Lunch:
Birmingham, AL
Northbound Train(20)

Breakfast:
New Orleans, LA

Lunch:
Birmingham, AL

Dinner:
Atlanta, GA
Coast StarlightSouthbound Train (11)

Lunch:
Vancouver, WA


Dinner:
Eugene-Springfield, OR


Breakfast:
San Francisco, CA
Northbound Train (14)

Lunch:
Santa Barbara, CA

Dinner:
Paso Robles ,CA

Breakfast:
Klamath Falls, OR

Lunch:
Eugene-Springfield, OR

Dinner:
Vancouver, WA


Most of these cities have a Uber Eats/Doordash/Grubhub presence so if anything maybe they could deliver the food to the station and then the station has like an Amazon locker thing where you just scan your QR code and a locker will open up with your food in it.

Something like this...
Food Orders.jpg
 

jiml

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The conclusion one could draw from several of the prior posts is that in these troubled times for local restaurants it might be a good idea to enlist them as partners if Amtrak were so inclined, resulting in a "win-win" for everyone. For some of these places in small towns it could be the lifeblood that keeps them in business. It's a great idea, but what are the odds and how does it start?
 

MARC Rider

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I'm not saying catered food should be the future. I think good dining car food should be the future.
Uh, back in the "good old days" of say, 2103, nearly all the "good dining car food" was catered and precooked. The only things cooked on board were the steaks and a few grill items at breakfast. Before we can decide what kind of food service is best, we have to get an idea of the true marginal costs (without all the pesky overhead charges) of supplying it.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Uh, back in the "good old days" of say, 2103, nearly all the "good dining car food" was catered and precooked. The only things cooked on board were the steaks and a few grill items at breakfast. Before we can decide what kind of food service is best, we have to get an idea of the true marginal costs (without all the pesky overhead charges) of supplying it.
I think we agree. By “catered food” I mean box meals that are fully prepared and loaded onto the train by a caterer that is NOT gate gourmet or whoever Amtrak is currently using. They are handed to the customer as is.

By “dining car food” I mean food that is loaded in the rail yard and stored on the dining car. That can be current flex meals, traditional dining, etc.

And I agree. I’m not suggesting Amtrak spend more money, I’m suggesting they provide a better quality menu. I don’t think that would cost any more money.

I also wish we had access to the f&b financials to see what Amtrak is spending on the current meals vs. the old ones.
 

Qapla

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Sometimes we watch the TV program "Flea-Market Flip". I have sometimes wondered how some of the people who bought some of the finished pieces felt after they watched the show. Especially when the contestants on the show manage to buy some item for $5 and spent another $4 on what they "enhance" the item with - then they price it at $475 and, after some "bargaining", sell it for $375. When the person who "got them to come down $100" still feel like they got a bargain when they find out it only cost the seller $9 to start with and they made $366 after the "bargain"?

I only mention this because, how would some feel when they pay the "upcharge" to have a sleeper if part of their reason is because "meals are included" - or, if coach was allowed to but a diner meal for $25 each meal - if they found out Amtrak is only paying $1.25 for their dinner meal and even less for the breakfast items?

Maybe that is why they have not published the actual meal costs ... :eek:
 

crescent-zephyr

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Sometimes we watch the TV program "Flea-Market Flip". I have sometimes wondered how some of the people who bought some of the finished pieces felt after they watched the show. Especially when the contestants on the show manage to buy some item for $5 and spent another $4 on what they "enhance" the item with - then they price it at $475 and, after some "bargaining", sell it for $375. When the person who "got them to come down $100" still feel like they got a bargain when they find out it only cost the seller $9 to start with and they made $366 after the "bargain"?

I only mention this because, how would some feel when they pay the "upcharge" to have a sleeper if part of their reason is because "meals are included" - or, if coach was allowed to but a diner meal for $25 each meal - if they found out Amtrak is only paying $1.25 for their dinner meal and even less for the breakfast items?

Maybe that is why they have not published the actual meal costs ... :eek:
I actually think the opposite is true. I think the meals are costing Amtrak a considerable amount of money.

I think the only real savings is in the staffing.

What’s cheaper.... a dozen eggs or a dozen frozen breakfast sandwiches?

What’s cheaper... a bulk bag of oatmeal, or a box of 48 individual servings of oatmeal and sugar?

(And the list goes on....)
 

jruff001

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I only mention this because, how would some feel when they pay the "upcharge" to have a sleeper if part of their reason is because "meals are included" - or, if coach was allowed to but a diner meal for $25 each meal - if they found out Amtrak is only paying $1.25 for their dinner meal and even less for the breakfast items?

Maybe that is why they have not published the actual meal costs ... :eek:
A lot of us pay primarily for the bed and private space. The food doesn't really factor into it for me and I doubt I am alone.
 

tricia

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A lot of us pay primarily for the bed and private space. The food doesn't really factor into it for me and I doubt I am alone.
I too pay primarily for the bed and private space. But I do resent it when the food's so bad I get off the train feeling queasy. Especially since it's a major PIA to bring all or most food I'll need to eat on a multiday trip that starts someplace far away from my home.
 

Qapla

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While it is true many are primarily looking for the privacy and the comfort of a bed - the rooms are still advertised as "meals included" ... that brings an expectation that they should be meals you would "want" to eat, especially on a multi-day trip - not meals you dread when it is time to eat again.
 
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jruff001

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Don't get me wrong - good food is definitely a plus! But food just doesn't sway my decision all that much about whether to get a SLEEPer.

Remember, once upon a time (not TOO long ago), sleeping car fares generally didn't include meals, both on Amtrak and on the predecessor railroads. (Yes I know Amtrak jacked up the sleeper fares when it started including meals.)
 

crescent-zephyr

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Don't get me wrong - good food is definitely a plus! But food just doesn't sway my decision all that much about whether to get a SLEEPer.

Remember, once upon a time (not TOO long ago), sleeping car fares generally didn't include meals, both on Amtrak and on the predecessor railroads. (Yes I know Amtrak jacked up the sleeper fares when it started including meals.)
So what you are suggesting is that no food should be included? That’s fine. I’d rather have that and be able to choose from the full cafe car menu.
 

crescent-zephyr

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Amtrak needs a better long-distance cafe car menu, too.
100%. They’ve taken quite a few good items off the menu in recent years as well. I don’t think they carry any of the iced coffees anymore on Acela or national.
 
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