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New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1, 2019

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jiml

Conductor
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Feb 27, 2019
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Toronto area
So if I had to create something with the current system I would do the following -

Breakfast - Same as now without the breakfast sandwich and instead offer - warm cinnamon rolls or mini waffles and egg bites similar to the ones served at starbukcs (they come pre-made and frozen.)

Lunch - Offer a choice of entree salad or sandwich. The salads and Sandwich plates would be pre-made and would be served with the following choices - Tuna Salad, Turkey, Roast Beef, Veggies and Hummus. Everything would be pre-made so you just add the chosen protein to the chosen salad / sandwich plate. Add a pack of chips and choice of dessert.

Dinner - entree plates would be pre-made with side salad, garnish, and premium cold side dish. Hot Entrees would be - salmon, grilled chicken, beef, and a veg. Entree. The entrees would be heated up and added to the pre-made plates. You could offer choices of side salad and premium cold sides, as they could be pre-made before serving time... or you could just have 1 basic plate. Again add a choice of dessert.

Desserts should include at least 1 gluten free option.

This allows some options for customers to mix and match and customize based on diets. If the above would be too complicated... maybe only offer 1 or 2 choices with the entree plate for dinner and continue to offer the entree salads but not the sandwiches for dinner?
Good summary. The key point you've highlighted is the need for something at lunch that is not the same as dinner. Everything you've suggested should be readily available at similar total cost if they chose to go that route. The only argument I can hear coming would be storage. I have to wonder if that contributes to the current choices, since having fewer of each item to accommodate more variety could lead to running out of some, with the end result being even fewer choices.
 

OBS

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Webster NY
Good summary. The key point you've highlighted is the need for something at lunch that is not the same as dinner. Everything you've suggested should be readily available at similar total cost if they chose to go that route. The only argument I can hear coming would be storage. I have to wonder if that contributes to the current choices, since having fewer of each item to accommodate more variety could lead to running out of some, with the end result being even fewer choices.
There should be no argument about storage. This is a dining car built to stock provisions for B-L-D for a 2-3 day trip....Plenty of refrigeration/storage space.
 
Joined
Jan 21, 2020
Messages
3
My wife and I will be taking the crescent to New Orleans from Philly early March. We have been disappointed to learn that the dining service has become airplane food without the option to pre order a decent meal. It is unfortunate that Amtrak made what I believe is a decision that totally disregards the comfort and enjoyment of the sleeper car rider. I have complained to Amtrak and if we had known about these changes we would have sought others means of travel. Please voice your dissatisfaction to all in authority. Maybe they will get the message
 

Devil's Advocate

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Texas
When [the food] was ready she hollered again "hey you" (motioning with her finger with the come here gesture that mothers have made famous over the years) if you want to eat you need to come get it.
Wow. It's completely and utterly obnoxious to act like this toward to a paying customer. Amtrak customer service continues to reach far beyond the pale. I would like to echo OBS' request to report this to the Customer Relations desk and request a voucher. Even if the amount provided is tiny and never used it will hopefully create a paper trail that can be combined with other complaints to get this person retrained or moved to another position far away from customers. If enough people complain it might even help push back against Anderson's Contemptible Dining initiative.
 

JRR

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
926
That is exactly how I felt about going to Florida this year--usually I have gone on the Meteor from PHL to WPK, stayed a few days, and come back.

It is true that this year has been warmer at home than usual so far, with no blizzards, and that part of my travel money went for a root canal.

Even so, instead of thinking what a shame it was I wasn't going to Florida, my reaction was "No dining car--that was 90 percent of what made the trip so enjoyable--no reason to bother now."
Sorry about the root canal. Winter Park is Susan’s favorite! Tough to miss.
 

JRR

OBS Chief
Joined
Jul 17, 2017
Messages
926
My wife and I will be taking the crescent to New Orleans from Philly early March. We have been disappointed to learn that the dining service has become airplane food without the option to pre order a decent meal. It is unfortunate that Amtrak made what I believe is a decision that totally disregards the comfort and enjoyment of the sleeper car rider. I have complained to Amtrak and if we had known about these changes we would have sought others means of travel. Please voice your dissatisfaction to all in authority. Maybe they will get the message
Make sure your trip is not “bustituted” between Atlanta and New Orleans. There is track work going on periodically.
 

Ryan

Conductor
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Apr 14, 2008
Messages
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OTN
Wraps up next week.

Crescent Trains 19 and 20 Bus Service Provided between Atlanta and New Orleans
Effective January 19 - February 20, 2020
Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern Railway will affect Trains 19 and 20 between New Orleans and Atlanta, Monday through Thursday January 20 through January 23, January 27 through January 30, February 3 through February 6, February 10 through February 13 and February 17 through February 20.
 

drfonta

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 13, 2019
Messages
32
I'm on the Star next month (before the flex dining gets added) NY to FL, and have been flip flopping back and forth between a roomette on the Meteor or Bedroom on the Star. I've got the voucher credit for the difference in price, roughly 330$ more for the Star BR, however only "A" is available. (Although I am pretty good a "renewing" voucher expiration dates, I'd rather just use it up honestly. I'm not a regular traveler since I live and work in Asia.) Given the reviews here on the flex dining food, and preferring the earlier departure out of NYP, (I will have big time jet lag having flown in the day before, and find leaving earlier in the day MUCH preferable, even just 4 hours) decided to just go with the Star BR and grabbing a Katz deli sandwich or two to take with me for lunch/dinner. Maybe even pack a couple of dunkin donuts too...And a bottle of wine of course! Am taking the Meteor back north in a roomette so I will get the flex "experience" then...
 

lordsigma

OBS Chief
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Sep 15, 2017
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I'm on the Star next month (before the flex dining gets added) NY to FL, and have been flip flopping back and forth between a roomette on the Meteor or Bedroom on the Star. I've got the voucher credit for the difference in price, roughly 330$ more for the Star BR, however only "A" is available. (Although I am pretty good a "renewing" voucher expiration dates, I'd rather just use it up honestly. I'm not a regular traveler since I live and work in Asia.) Given the reviews here on the flex dining food, and preferring the earlier departure out of NYP, (I will have big time jet lag having flown in the day before, and find leaving earlier in the day MUCH preferable, even just 4 hours) decided to just go with the Star BR and grabbing a Katz deli sandwich or two to take with me for lunch/dinner. Maybe even pack a couple of dunkin donuts too...And a bottle of wine of course! Am taking the Meteor back north in a roomette so I will get the flex "experience" then...
Star down and meteor up are a good way to do it. I’ll be doing Star south to Columbia SC and Meteor north from Florence SC in May.
 

Qapla

Conductor
Joined
Jul 15, 2019
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Location
Gator Country Florida
If things finally work out for us, we will be taking the Star up and back from JAX to RGH ... most likely riding Coach

Might take some munchies but shouldn't need a meal. We will both bring our insulated drink carriers (I have one that holds almost a ½ gal)
 

tricia

Conductor
Joined
Aug 23, 2011
Messages
1,103
Location
Spring Creek, NC
Please take t

Please take the time to report your experience on train #50 to Amtrak!
Also your better experience on #49. Credit where credit's due....

Sorry--missed the post further down that this had already been done. :oops:
 
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20th Century Rider

OBS Chief
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Jan 26, 2020
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Oregon Coast
Took the Lakeshore out of Boston… there is no diner on this section so they let you order from the cafe … which offers much higher quality and more enjoyable experience than the new 'flex dining.' I had a chicken sandwich and salad… and got a Corona Beer with lime wedge as my complementary alcoholic drink. Delightful! When finally arriving in Albany, the Boston sleeper passengers had to wait until 7pm to get service… then walk back 5 cars to the diner. To make matters even worse, many of the offerings had been given to the New York passengers who had eaten earlier. Flex dining is very unpleasant and unsatisfying… the small servings of food have no texture or taste. This is a monotonous food product. I ride LD often and have had this stuff a number of times; dread it… will bring my own food next time. As the decline in service accelerates, one wonders what's next.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,257
I had my chance at Flex Dining this past weekend on 49 and 50. Had the Asian Noodle Bowl on 49 and the Chicken Fettuccini on 50. Both were awful. Eating the noodles was like chewing gum. Just overall tasteless and horrible presentation. Breakfast was just OK.

The LSA on 49 was wonderful, took my order and brought it to me. On 50 I sat down in the "car that you can eat food in" or whatever they are calling it now and the LSA hollered from behind the counter, " If you wanna eat you have to come here to order it." When it was ready she hollered again "hey you" (motioning with her finger with the come here gesture that mothers have made famous over the years) if you want to eat you need to come get it. My name and room number was on the manifest the LSA's had. The 49 LSA used my name, welcomed me and engaged me in light conversation. Eating on 49 was OK given the nice and conversational LSA but on 50 I felt like I was eating in a prison. I will be bringing on food or eating off the train for future LD trips. Both times there was only one other person in the car so not being over worked. The 50 LSA was talking to the onboard crew and surfing the net on her cellphone.
Just think about how much you're saving on tips! I figure between me and my wife, we save about $$25-$30 per day in the dining room. No service, no tip. Little service, little tip. No need to carry lots of small bills every time we take a sleeper. Bigger bills are for SCAs WHEN they provide service - like being friendly, being flexible about setting up at sleep time, and helping us old people with bags and other such things that some on the eastern trains, particularly, must think is beneath them.
 

crescent-zephyr

Conductor
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Oct 21, 2015
Messages
2,681
Just think about how much you're saving on tips! I figure between me and my wife, we save about $$25-$30 per day in the dining room. No service, no tip. Little service, little tip. No need to carry lots of small bills every time we take a sleeper. Bigger bills are for SCAs WHEN they provide service - like being friendly, being flexible about setting up at sleep time, and helping us old people with bags and other such things that some on the eastern trains, particularly, must think is beneath them.
I’ve mentioned this before on the boards but since my SCA took my order for lunch and dinner, delivered my dinner, brought me coffee at breakfast time, and was extremely friendly I gave her the tip I would usually give the dining car servers.

No way was I gonna tip the lsa that I had.
 

Ringfinder

Train Attendant
Joined
Apr 4, 2013
Messages
20
Location
Lima Ohio
My thoughts about the Cardboard lunches, they suck! My wife and I rode the Capital Limited from Toledo to Washington in February of this year in a Roomette. We could not believe we were getting a Box Lunch for our main meal I asked if we were going to get a refund for the meals we usually get while traveling 1st class, they just sort of laughed. Our rear attendant did his best to accommodate all of his passengers, but it was Amtrak who made this decision. After a 9 hr. Layover in Washington waiting on our train to Florida, we boarded the train. The Roomette was a lot better than the trains going out west, but the meals couldn’t hold a candle to the Empire Builder, the Southwest Chief, The California Zephyr. My wife and I will miss traveling out West! We so enjoy seeing our Beautiful west from Chicago to Seattle, Emeryville/San Francisco, LA, Albuquerque and all the States in between! It’s hard to believe that all the riders who ride coach will no longer be able to ride the rails! We can only hope that a new administration in Washington will see the value of Better Train Service in America.
Well, I’m still riding the rails and have been since my post. Thank goodness Anderson has not changed the overnight routes with box lunch meals. I want to go to Montana again this year (2020), but with Coronavirus, not sure I’ll be able to wait four hrs. In the a Chicago Station. I mostly travel the long haul routes. I live in the country so most of my rail riding is long haul. Since my post, I see some changes have occurred with eating arrangements for first class passengers, that is good. Hopefully we will get someone back in Government that likes to ride the rails and see’s the advantages for Rail Travel.

Best Regards for the Betterment of Amtrak and it’s Riders.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
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Apr 5, 2011
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Baltimore. MD
Amtrak customer service continues to reach far beyond the pale.
Actually Amtrak's customer service is wildly inconsistent. I've had some really good service on contemporary flex dining (at least for what it's supposed to be), and then there's what was described here. I guess it doesn't hurt to complain, just to make sure the management gets the message that passengers care about this stuff. We don't expect white glove fawning service suitable for the Ritz, but a little pleasantness and efficiency goes a long way.

My favorite beef is service people who have long conversations with each other in front of customers about how to provide the service. Hey, I'm waiting to get served! You guys should have your processes in place before opening, and spend your time in front of customers actually taking care of customers, especially in the food biz, where we customers are hungry! This isn't a problem unique to Amtrak, by the way. I think in many instances it's more of a management problem than with the actual service people.
 

MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
Took the Lakeshore out of Boston… there is no diner on this section so they let you order from the cafe … which offers much higher quality and more enjoyable experience than the new 'flex dining.'

Sounds like they should also let sleeper passengers order from the cafe car at no charge (within reasonable limits on number of items), and also convert the national cafe car menus to something approaching the northeast corridor cafe car menu. A few plain sandwiches, especially for meats without cheese, or just plain cheese, for people who don't care for the fancy sandwiches they try to put together.
 
Joined
Nov 8, 2019
Messages
5
Sounds like they should also let sleeper passengers order from the cafe car at no charge (within reasonable limits on number of items), and also convert the national cafe car menus to something approaching the northeast corridor cafe car menu. A few plain sandwiches, especially for meats without cheese, or just plain cheese, for people who don't care for the fancy sandwiches they try to put together.
Letting sleepers order from the cafe car would clearly be superior in terms of food to the box lunches. I’d suggest organizing it with category limits (one snack/appetizer, one entree/sandwich, one dessert, one beverage) rather than by dollar limit, so that customers don’t spend minutes trying to calculate exact credit combinations... human nature, alas.

But for folks like me who love the long distance trains because of the combo of comfortable accommodations and dining experience, the best way the cafe car idea on its own could entice us back (we’re not planning to buy any more tickets on the Crescent) is if there are dining tables and a host to organize seating when things get crowded. (A better roomette comfort experience, and better scheduling including overnight sleeper-only trains, might also entice us, but that’s for another topic...)
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
336
Location
Brownsburg IN
Better yet, just convert the new Diners into First Class Lounges. Upgrade the food and beverage options as you do it. The attendant wouldn’t likely be that busy serving primarily sleeper passengers, so they could keep things clean and organized. Create a friendly, casual lounge atmosphere. People used to call the lounge car the bar car - embrace that but class it up a bit. By gaining a nice amenity like that - it would take some of the sting away of losing the full diner.
 

lordsigma

OBS Chief
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Sep 15, 2017
Messages
918
If the “concept car” or something like it becomes a reality there won’t be a “cafe car” and “diner” anymore. There will just be a Viewliner diner serving all meals (the cafe and flex dining menus) id rather see them improve the quality of the flex dining meals than just offer free cafe items - the cafe car doesn’t serve any kind of gourmet food either though offering a few of the lighter fare options as additional choices in addition to the flex meals would be a good idea - I think you may see that if they go with this single car concept. As many on this board have stated it’s possible to serve quality pre-prepared meals that would be acceptable to most folks - the airlines do it daily and even the meals on Acela first would be an improvement.
 

IndyLions

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Nov 6, 2016
Messages
336
Location
Brownsburg IN
If the “concept car” or something like it becomes a reality there won’t be a “cafe car” and “diner” anymore. There will just be a Viewliner diner serving all meals (the cafe and flex dining menus) id rather see them improve the quality of the flex dining meals than just offer free cafe items - the cafe car doesn’t serve any kind of gourmet food either though offering a few of the lighter fare options as additional choices in addition to the flex meals would be a good idea - I think you may see that if they go with this single car concept. As many on this board have stated it’s possible to serve quality pre-prepared meals that would be acceptable to most folks - the airlines do it daily and even the meals on Acela first would be an improvement.
How will they reconcile the fact that the cafe car on most LD trains are very busy with Coach passengers nearly the entire time that they are open? Will that same attendant be preparing meals for sleepers? Not saying that you are wrong, just trying to figure out how that will work...
 
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