Pre-Selection of Meals

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

OBS

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Nov 9, 2011
Messages
1,716
Location
Long Island, NY
Does San Diego or San Luis Obispo have one?
Neither. Both are close enough you can run a truck from LA/OAK in an urgent situation.

Many years ago there was a small supply closet and freezer in Sanford for A/T and Silver Service (Emergency situation) trains. Not sure if it is still in operation
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,341
Location
Socal
Neither. Both are close enough you can run a truck from LA/OAK in an urgent situation.

Many years ago there was a small supply closet and freezer in Sanford for A/T and Silver Service (Emergency situation) trains. Not sure if it is still in operation
Okay
 
  • Like
Reactions: jis

Michigan Mom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
813
Location
MI
Here's how the airlines work it: if they run out of something you'd like to have, too bad. You have to take something from remaining choices, if there remains a choice. Simplifies the whole process immensely. Or as my mother used to say: "eat it, or go hungry." :)
So airlines stock for one flight, and yes if everyone in FC takes the chicken dish then you're stuck with the pasta primavera if that's all that's left by the time the FA gets to you. Amtrak has its passengers for a lot longer on a multi-state trip, it isn't going to work the same way.
 

Anderson

Conductor
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
9,638
Location
Virginia
I talked to the LSA or whatever his title (he prepared the food in the VLII Diner on the Meteor) about the pre-selection thing. I commented that the Meteor was the first train I had ridden where the food service folks actually knew what I had pre-ordered. He said it takes a fair amount of effort - but the information is there for all the LSAs who are interested.

I’m guessing on the other trains they weren’t all that interested.
There was at least one crew on the Meteor that also went to the trouble of running off special train-specific menus and whatnot on a Xerox. It was a small thing, but it was still a very nice touch.

My point being that I feel like the crews on the Meteor may err slightly "better" than some other routes, though that might be a byproduct of the attrition from the Star.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
I've been on plenty of LD Trains where @ the First Setting after leaving the Originating Station, the Wait person says " Were Sold Out of ______", only to see Crew Members eating said item(s) later.( especially Steaks and Deserts).
I've seen that too... Amtrak personnel run the gambit... but I thought they weren't supposed to be eating restaurant meals... many have complained that they must bring their own food. Ah well... "When you see something..."
 

Palmetto

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
May 12, 2014
Messages
2,290
Location
Miami
So airlines stock for one flight, and yes if everyone in FC takes the chicken dish then you're stuck with the pasta primavera if that's all that's left by the time the FA gets to you. Amtrak has its passengers for a lot longer on a multi-state trip, it isn't going to work the same way.
Of course not. That's why selecting meals when reserving a trip would hopefully ensure that there was enough of an item on board that responds to prior demand. On American Airlines, I've never been denied what I had previously asked for online. There is no reason Amtrak cannot do same, unless demand exceeds supply, and that would bolster the argument for en route commissaries, IMO.
 

OBS

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Nov 9, 2011
Messages
1,716
Location
Long Island, NY
I've seen that too... Amtrak personnel run the gambit... but I thought they weren't supposed to be eating restaurant meals... many have complained that they must bring their own food. Ah well... "When you see something..."
Jim is referring to when the Dining Car was operating normally. In that situation all OBS crew are provided meals thru the DC.
 

jiml

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Feb 27, 2019
Messages
3,375
Location
Somewhere in Southern Ontario
Of course not. That's why selecting meals when reserving a trip would hopefully ensure that there was enough of an item on board that responds to prior demand. On American Airlines, I've never been denied what I had previously asked for online.
As an AA frequent flyer (pre-Covid) I'd agree that pre-ordering improves your chances of getting what you want, but it's far from foolproof. They actually get it wrong quite frequently IME. The only guarantee is if there's one hot entree and one cold one is you will usually get your choice. What's not guaranteed is the preparation matching that offered on the advance menu, e.g. Chicken Parmesan turns out to be Caesar salad with cold chicken. Omelettes out of CLT are usually breakfast sandwiches and they seldom load pre-ordered charcuterie plates. Then there's the times they forget the pre-orders entirely until halfway through taking orders and do run out of something. They seldom backtrack at that point, leaving some out-of-luck for what they ordered. A complaint will get you 5K miles in your account. There used to be a trick known by AA FF's to getting your first choice, so pre-ordering has made it fairer for the average passenger, but it's not the ideal solution without catering and crew "buy-in". The same likely holds true for Amtrak.
 

jis

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Gathering Team Member
Joined
Aug 24, 2003
Messages
27,858
Location
Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
That is one big difference between the really good air carriers of the world and the typical American carriers. American carriers generally suffer from a lack of consistency in service, somewhat similar to what Amtrak suffers from. In contrast, the likes of Singapore Airlines tend to be much more consistent in high quality service.
 
Last edited:

railiner

Conductor
Joined
Mar 20, 2009
Messages
9,381
Location
Palm Beach County
That is one big difference between the really good air carriers of the world and the typical American carriers. American carriers generally suffer from a lack of consistency in service, somewhat similar to what Amtrak suffers from. In contrast, the likes of Singapore Airlines tend to be much more consistent in high quality service.
Doesn’t say much for American culture, or work ethic, does it?🙁
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
You mean American Management and Customer Care, don't you?

When it happens once, it's a mistake. when it happens twice, it's probably a lazy employee. When it happens more than that, it is a failure of management. :)
And when management fails it's all about the 'culture' of the Amtrak organization. Ride the trains in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and beyond... it's a whole different 'culture' where function, reliability, and consistency are 'normal,' and an occasional slip up is a big deal... opposed to here when a really good trip experience is more of a hope than an expectation!
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
3,011
Location
Baltimore. MD
And when management fails it's all about the 'culture' of the Amtrak organization. Ride the trains in Asia, Europe, North Africa, and beyond... it's a whole different 'culture' where function, reliability, and consistency are 'normal,' and an occasional slip up is a big deal... opposed to here when a really good trip experience is more of a hope than an expectation!
You know, most Americans, with the exception of the Native tribes and the African-Americans who were dragged here against their will, are descendants of people who, in some ways, rejected the culture of Europe, Asia, etc., and came here to get a new start. Many of us see a culture of "service" as a culture of slavery. Thus, we either fight (at some level) against having to provide too much service, or we are embarrassed to receive it. In any event, Americans seem to tolerate bad service pretty well. On the other hand, Ryanair is pretty successful among the Europeans, so perhaps my cultural commentary is full of it. :)

Also, read Paul Theroux's account of his experience in a French dining car in 1973 (The Great Railway Bazaar). Come to think of it, Theroux has provided a number of entertaining accounts of dining car service around the world that make Amtrak flex dining look like the height of high-class gourmet service. (both in the Great Railway Bazaar and Ghost Train to the Eastern Star (2006))
 

Devil's Advocate

Conductor
Joined
May 24, 2010
Messages
12,353
Location
Texas
Many of us see a culture of "service" as a culture of slavery. Thus, we either fight (at some level) against having to provide too much service, or we are embarrassed to receive it. In any event, Americans seem to tolerate bad service pretty well.
Many? So far you're the only person I've seen equate friendly service with forced slavery. Your increasingly convoluted explanations for bad service and your unexplained fear of experiencing good service seem pretty unique to me. If slavery is the issue why were service standards better in the past and why are they getting worse over time?
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
Many? So far you're the only person I've seen equate friendly service with forced slavery. Your increasingly convoluted explanations for bad service and your unexplained fear of experiencing good service seem pretty unique to me. If slavery is the issue why were service standards better in the past and why are they getting worse over time?
I so agree with you... talk about getting off topic in a twisted way!
Many of us see a culture of "service" as a culture of slavery. Thus, we either fight (at some level) against having to provide too much service, or we are embarrassed to receive it. In any event, Americans seem to tolerate bad service pretty well.
I've never seen a post so positive about flex meals!
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
3,011
Location
Baltimore. MD
I've never seen a post so positive about flex meals!
There are two main problems with flex meals:
1) The quality and variety of the food is inadequate, though, unlike some here, I think everything that I've been served is edible.
2) They're not available for coach passengers.

As to the service level -- In my experience, I've never had really, really, bad service whether in flex meals or in the traditional dining. There have been a few times where they're a bit disorganized, and thus not as efficient as they could be. This, of course means that hungry passengers get their feedings delayed, which is really something that should be avoided.

In another post, someone compared Amtrak with European rail food service, and said that the Euros were "pleasantly efficient," whereas Amtrak strived to provide "friendly personable" type service, which, I think increases your interactions with the waiter. This wasn't always the case on Amtrak. I recall in the 1970s the dining car staff provided service that was more "pleasantly efficient." It was so efficient that you wrote up your own order, and the waiters hardly said anything to you, but took your order, served your meal, and took your money. There were no reservations, but I was able to get a full meal served to me on a crowded NEC train while traveling between Trenton and Newark. At some point, Amtrak apparently adopted a different dining model that had reservations, fixed seating, and pretensions of fancy service that never really materialized. Maybe they need to go back to the 1970s in this regard.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
There are two main problems with flex meals:
1) The quality and variety of the food is inadequate, though, unlike some here, I think everything that I've been served is edible.
2) They're not available for coach passengers
Agreed! Flex meal concept has brought strong adverse reaction from customer reviews and news publications. As AU'ers have noted... we can only hope that Amtrak has received the message. Impressive are the food offerings promised for after the pandemic at Moynihan - that's a good sign which I hope means a better experience throughout the system.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
i NEED dining car service with choices for COACH passengers, thank you
Amtrak must do more for coach passengers on overnight trains. The cafe offerings are overpriced, and not very healthy. Why can't the US do like trains in other countries... where food is fresh, healthy, affordable... and available to all. Sleeper car passengers in most other countries also must pay for their own meals so all have access to the food offerings.
 

me_little_me

Conductor
AU Lifetime Supporter
Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
3,948
As to the service level -- In my experience, I've never had really, really, bad service whether in flex meals or in the traditional dining. There have been a few times where they're a bit disorganized, and thus not as efficient as they could be. This, of course means that hungry passengers get their feedings delayed, which is really something that should be avoided.
I have. On the Crescent. Multiple times. Different trips.

Been scolded because we didn't know what flex meal we wanted BEFORE we got to the diner.

Been rudely told it was our responsibility to clear the table and put the leftovers and containers in the garbage can ourselves - before we finished our meal.

Being told it was our responsibility to get up from our seats to get anything we wanted, such as our meal when it was finished cooking and our brownie AFTER we got our meal as well as any drinks we wanted.

Having our meals just dumped on our table instead of placing them in front of us while sitting down.

Having been told "Didn't you get your [alcoholic] drink yesterday?" and rudely asked. When I told the "server" that we didn't get on until after midnight, she remained as rude as ever,

Needless to say, we saved a lot of money in tips on those trains.
 

Cal

Conductor
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
1,341
Location
Socal
I personally have never seen bad service. Careless service, yeah. I do know my travelling partner has seen bad service, however.
 

jebr

Conductor
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
4,240
Location
"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
Having been told "Didn't you get your [alcoholic] drink yesterday?" and rudely asked. When I told the "server" that we didn't get on until after midnight, she remained as rude as ever,
This is only semi-related (and I'm sure that staff member would've found something else to gripe about regardless) but Amtrak should really change the policy to simply have an alcoholic drink included with each meal, or with lunch and dinner. The couple times I've done flex dining they've had no clear way to handle the free drink (it seemed to be "on your honor"/the staff member remembering whether you had your free drink or not) and it seems really easy to lead to conflict (as your anecdote shows.) It also feels a lot less cheap to include one with each meal, without making it a free-for-all.
 

hlcteacher

Service Attendant
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Messages
121
Location
cleveland
Amtrak must do more for coach passengers on overnight trains. The cafe offerings are overpriced, and not very healthy. Why can't the US do like trains in other countries... where food is fresh, healthy, affordable... and available to all. Sleeper car passengers in most other countries also must pay for their own meals so all have access to the food offerings.
EXACTLY!!!! i used to travel coast to cost with son, always budgeted for breakfast and dinner in the dining car, would like to do that with grandbuddy
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,458
Location
Oregon Coast
EXACTLY!!!! i used to travel coast to cost with son, always budgeted for breakfast and dinner in the dining car, would like to do that with grandbuddy
And... we expect that Amtrak is to serve the American Public! Amtrak needs to be in sync with you and me and all of us because we are the American Public! It is my hope... and the hope of all of us... that our expectations for America is reflected in Amtrak service.

What is going on here better be well connected with what Americans expect.
 
Top