Pre-Selection of Meals

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Cal

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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.
Yep. Honestly, I would much rather have consistently good service (amenities, food, and staff) than better trains. At least for LD
 

Palmetto

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These problems did not exist when there was a Chief of Onboard Services, did they? Anyone go back that far who can comment?
 

OBS

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These problems did not exist when there was a Chief of Onboard Services, did they? Anyone go back that far who can comment?
I may be a biased view, but I think the Chief kept a lot of these problems under control. And when there was a problem, the passenger had a representative that was directly responsible for rectifying problems if/when they occur.
 

railiner

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These problems did not exist when there was a Chief of Onboard Services, did they? Anyone go back that far who can comment?
I may be a biased view, but I think the Chief kept a lot of these problems under control. And when there was a problem, the passenger had a representative that was directly responsible for rectifying problems if/when they occur.
Just like the attendants, not all Chief's were equal....
Some were skilled manager's, other's not so much. And keep in mind that On Board Chief's were a "partially excepted" position...meaning that they were not true management, like the Train Manager's were, but were in fact union-represented position's (ARASA). As a result, many of them were reluctant to institute disciplinary procedures against union brother's and sister's....
 

jiml

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Just like the attendants, not all Chief's were equal....
Some were skilled manager's, other's not so much. And keep in mind that On Board Chief's were a "partially excepted" position...meaning that they were not true management, like the Train Manager's were, but were in fact union-represented position's (ARASA). As a result, many of them were reluctant to institute disciplinary procedures against union brother's and sister's....
Not that different from most forepersons in industry/construction or a purser on a plane.
 

MARC Rider

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Yep. Honestly, I would much rather have consistently good service (amenities, food, and staff) than better trains. At least for LD
Personally, I would rather that the long-distance trains rans on time, were in good repair, operated safely, and had practical value to the people in the rural areas who depend on them as a mobility alternative. And I suspect that might bee the opinion of the political leaders who appropriate tax money to subsidize the service.
 

Cal

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Personally, I would rather that the long-distance trains rans on time, were in good repair, operated safely, and had practical value to the people in the rural areas who depend on them as a mobility alternative. And I suspect that might bee the opinion of the political leaders who appropriate tax money to subsidize the service.
That should really not be something we should be asking for, it should be a given.
 

Dakota 400

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These problems did not exist when there was a Chief of Onboard Services, did they? Anyone go back that far who can comment?
I may be a biased view, but I think the Chief kept a lot of these problems under control. And when there was a problem, the passenger had a representative that was directly responsible for rectifying problems if/when they occur.
There was a definite difference in the quality of the Amtrak experience when the Chief of Onboard Services position was eliminated.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Just like the attendants, not all Chief's were equal....Some were skilled manager's, other's not so much. And keep in mind that On Board Chief's were a "partially excepted" position...meaning that they were not true management, like the Train Manager's were, but were in fact union-represented position's (ARASA). As a result, many of them were reluctant to institute disciplinary procedures against union brother's and sister's....
Aircraft pursers are in a similar situation but they can play an important role in identifying problems, implementing solutions, and maintaining standards. When things go wrong a purser can resolve minor issues before they become bigger problems and help deescalate major issues before they become unsolvable. Sometimes all you really need is a big picture resource to help calm emotions and work around bureaucracy but on Amtrak nobody is in that role.
 

neroden

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Personally, I would rather that the long-distance trains rans on time, were in good repair, operated safely, and had practical value to the people in the rural areas who depend on them as a mobility alternative. And I suspect that might bee the opinion of the political leaders who appropriate tax money to subsidize the service.
Well, yes, but I think providing reasonable-quality on-board food where one can check the ingredients lists before departure is something any reasonable company would do when its guests are present across multiple mealtimes.

Good food availability massively increases the prices they can charge, and their ridership. It is notable that every single time I talk to someone who flies or drives and doesn't consider the train about taking the train, their first question is "does it have the dining car?". This is millennials and Generation Z. To attract a younger crowd of travellers to Amtrak trains which run across mealtimes, they need the dining cars.

Stephen Gardner and a bunch of the other old fogies at Amtrak appear not to understand this, having never actually done any real market research. Now, there are a lot of changes one could make to the dining car without affecting the millennial interest: millennials are not expecting tablecloths or flowers, and expect a more "equal" and casual relationship with the serving staff, rather than obsequiousness. They just want a nice meal and a view of the moving scenery out the window while they eat it.

But quality food with a quality selection of food -- and the ability to cater to dietary restrictions -- millennials and Gen Z expect that. We all know how to live off ramen, but if we can afford not to, we avoid it. Most "dinner trains" are actually hitting the right note here. Amtrak could do the same. If it consistently hit "Olive Garden" quality, or heck, even "Five Guys" quality, with food information available in advance, people would be like, cool. Amtrak's management has been choosing to supply trash for food instead.
 

MARC Rider

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Well, yes, but I think providing reasonable-quality on-board food where one can check the ingredients lists before departure is something any reasonable company would do when its guests are present across multiple mealtimes.

Good food availability massively increases the prices they can charge, and their ridership. It is notable that every single time I talk to someone who flies or drives and doesn't consider the train about taking the train, their first question is "does it have the dining car?". This is millennials and Generation Z. To attract a younger crowd of travellers to Amtrak trains which run across mealtimes, they need the dining cars.

Stephen Gardner and a bunch of the other old fogies at Amtrak appear not to understand this, having never actually done any real market research. Now, there are a lot of changes one could make to the dining car without affecting the millennial interest: millennials are not expecting tablecloths or flowers, and expect a more "equal" and casual relationship with the serving staff, rather than obsequiousness. They just want a nice meal and a view of the moving scenery out the window while they eat it.

But quality food with a quality selection of food -- and the ability to cater to dietary restrictions -- millennials and Gen Z expect that. We all know how to live off ramen, but if we can afford not to, we avoid it. Most "dinner trains" are actually hitting the right note here. Amtrak could do the same. If it consistently hit "Olive Garden" quality, or heck, even "Five Guys" quality, with food information available in advance, people would be like, cool. Amtrak's management has been choosing to supply trash for food instead.
Even more important than the food, and that should be of reasonably decent quality, is the idea that you can get up out of your seat and spend some part of your trip hanging out in a lounge car or dining car. I would think that one of the real downers of a LD coach passenger during this pandemic is that the cafe cars are shut down, except for take out, and the dining car is for sleeper pax only. At least on some superliner trains the Sightseer lounge is open, but not on the Capitol or Texas Eagle.

Here's hoping that as things open up,they start opening up dining and lounge space soon.
 

neroden

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Even more important than the food, and that should be of reasonably decent quality, is the idea that you can get up out of your seat and spend some part of your trip hanging out in a lounge car or dining car. I would think that one of the real downers of a LD coach passenger during this pandemic is that the cafe cars are shut down, except for take out, and the dining car is for sleeper pax only. At least on some superliner trains the Sightseer lounge is open, but not on the Capitol or Texas Eagle.

Here's hoping that as things open up,they start opening up dining and lounge space soon.
People do like to be able to stretch, and to sit around a table to chat as a group of more than two, but you'd be surprised: among the younger people I've talked to, there has been far more interest in dining cars than in lounging/sightseeing cars. I wouldn't dare to guess why.
 
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tricia

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People do like to be able to stretch, and to sit around a table to chat as a group of more than two, but you'd be surprised: among the younger people I've talked to, there has been far more interest in dining cars than in lounging/sightseeing cars. I wouldn't dare to guess why.
I'd guess it has something to do with, if you're going to be on a train for a day or two or three, you'll need to eat. 🤔 Decent quality of food, with options that can be chosen for healthfulness and to meet common dietary restrictions, is a necessity when you've got passengers on a train through multiple meal times. Lounge cars and other such public spaces are a really attractive feature, but there aren't many folks who'd choose to avoid long-distance train travel entirely if they weren't available. Not having access to decent food should be seen by Amtrak's bean counters as a deal killer for many long-distance riders.
 

caravanman

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I have pretty much given up trying to imagine what goes on in anyone elses mind, and more so for train fans... ;)

I wonder though if the interest in dining cars mentioned above may be because it is easier to break the ice with fellow passengers at meals, to enjoy a social interaction, as well as enjoying the food on offer?
 

railiner

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People do like to be able to stretch, and to sit around a table to chat as a group of more than two, but you'd be surprised: among the younger people I've talked to, there has been far more interest in dining cars than in lounging/sightseeing cars. I wouldn't dare to guess why.
My guess is that those you’ve talked with, would rather immerse themselves into their “device”, than socialize with fellow passengers?🤔
 

Michigan Mom

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Received the email from Amtrak to pre-select meals on our upcoming LSL trip. Only in one direction, though, on the return from NY. So maybe this is in test mode. Assuming that leaving Chicago, it will be the same items to choose from for lunch the next day. They also provide a listing of what will be available for breakfast, which includes a breakfast sandwich, which will be perfect if I can remove the ham. The menu that is linked in the email shows an omelette which I didn't think was available on the LSL in either direction. On our last LSL trip in 2019, I recall the offerings were more than adequate, if not inspiring, and that's really all we have come to expect.
 

Bob Dylan

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Received the email from Amtrak to pre-select meals on our upcoming LSL trip. Only in one direction, though, on the return from NY. So maybe this is in test mode. Assuming that leaving Chicago, it will be the same items to choose from for lunch the next day. They also provide a listing of what will be available for breakfast, which includes a breakfast sandwich, which will be perfect if I can remove the ham. The menu that is linked in the email shows an omelette which I didn't think was available on the LSL in either direction. On our last LSL trip in 2019, I recall the offerings were more than adequate, if not inspiring, and that's really all we have come to expect.
Most of us think the Omelette is terrible! Perhaps it depends on personal taste and who hears it up, but the one I had on my trip to Dallas was tasteless and rubbery( the potatoes were good however!)

The Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwich isnt anything to rush down to the Store and buy either!

The Continental Breskfast gives you choices and is edible. I ate the Yogurt,Cereal with Milk( Low Fat)and skipped the Sugar Bomb Muffin, while having Apple Juice and Coffee( which was very good!)
 

MARC Rider

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Most of us think the Omelette is terrible! Perhaps it depends on personal taste and who hears it up, but the one I had on my trip to Dallas was tasteless and rubbery( the potatoes were good however!)

The Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sandwich isnt anything to rush down to the Store and buy either!

The Continental Breskfast gives you choices and is edible. I ate the Yogurt,Cereal with Milk( Low Fat)and skipped the Sugar Bomb Muffin, while having Apple Juice and Coffee( which was very good!)
If the omelet is the same as what the served on the Acela in FC, it was OK. On the other hand, I found the potatoes to be "meh." I have bad associations with the breakfast sandwich because that's what I had for breakfast on the Capitol the morning I came down with Bell's Palsy. (I'm sure there's no medical relation between the two, but, hey, who says our minds work rationally?)

The Continental would be great, but (1) they need to serve regular 6 oz yougurts, (2) they need to return the fresh fruit cup, and (3) they need to serve bagels and cream cheese. That they do in the cafe car. Why can't they have them for sleeper passengers, too?
 

Michigan Mom

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If the omelet is the same as what the served on the Acela in FC, it was OK. On the other hand, I found the potatoes to be "meh." I have bad associations with the breakfast sandwich because that's what I had for breakfast on the Capitol the morning I came down with Bell's Palsy. (I'm sure there's no medical relation between the two, but, hey, who says our minds work rationally?)

The Continental would be great, but (1) they need to serve regular 6 oz yougurts, (2) they need to return the fresh fruit cup, and (3) they need to serve bagels and cream cheese. That they do in the cafe car. Why can't they have them for sleeper passengers, too?
Glad to know we're not missing anything as far as the Omelets... you know, if the coffee is good, meaning the creams aren't spoiled (75% of the time, and something they should fix), I'm good for a few hours. I will also skip the breakfast sandwich in solidarity! Two years ago I don't recall it was a Jimmy Dean, it was a soft ciabatta roll heated with egg and cheese, with a ham slice that was easily discarded.
Bagels and cream cheese should be a given - it seems the world is fairly evenly divided between people who go for the muffin - or the bagel. Not difficult to have both available! And if Pre selection helps them have more adequate stocking of the basics, so much the better.
 

Sidney

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i always wondered why the bagel wasn't offered for breakfast as part of the flexible meals. The burger is better than any flex meal I've had and that should have been a choice on the flex menu for lunch and dinner.

I'm looking forward to the return of traditional dining on the Western trains. Sadly,the crap will continue elsewhere. Flexible dining has to go down as one of the most unpopular moves Amtrak ever made. If you are on a train for two days or more and are paying sky high sleeper prices you expect decent cooked to order food.
 

neroden

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If the breakfast selections weren't entirely sugar bombs (except for the omelete, they still are) the situation would be a lot better. This could easily have been done with prepackaged food but wasn't. Does Mr Gardner have a sweet tooth or something?
 
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