Enthusiastic Transit Rider
- Jan 23, 2012
There's a number of cities that pay a $10-$15 wage (with no tip credit for wait staff, so wait staff has to be paid that full $10-$15/hr.) and prices at sit-down restaurants have not shot up dramatically. Here in MSP, where minimum wage is in the $11-$14 range in most places, pricing is not substantially different than elsewhere. Yes, the $6.99 special at Denny's is $8.99 instead, and the 2 for $20 at Applebee's is now 2 for $22, but prices haven't tripled! The biggest reason that Amtrak's labor costs are higher is because there's a bunch of factors that Amtrak has to mitigate with higher wages - they can't really employ part-time employees such as students or people wanting to make a bit of extra money because they need to be away from home for days at a time, and you're now also having to give up your social and home life even more than if you were a full-time employee at a land-based restaurant (where you at least generally get to go home every night.) Thus, Amtrak has to pay a fair amount more to attract quality candidates - there's not a lot of people who find being away from home for days at a time, at least long-term, to be a plus. That's one of the main reason why Amtrak has such a difficult time profitably running a diner, and it's somewhat unique to Amtrak. The other side of the equation is that there's a very finite number of people that can be served, and that capacity is quite a bit lower than many restaurants.Better get used to Flex style dining. It's the wave of the future. The only reason traditional dining is viable in land-based restaurants is because restaurant workers are poorly paid and work irregular hours. When this is no longer the case, expect a entrees at your neighborhood Denny's to start at $35 (in today's money.) Either that, or you're going to be ordering over your phone and picking up the meal when you arrive, like they do at Panera, and even Panera will cost more, because they have a pretty big kitchen crew, even with mostly pre-cooked stuff, as they have to individually heat and plate everything. Anyway, forget about special orders, the public will just have to learn to eat what's put in front of them.
This is what baffles me the most with Amtrak's current food service offerings - having a chef on board with quality ingredients would make the experience a lot better and deliver quality food that can be customized to people's desires (at least when implemented properly.) The chef also would likely offset some of their cost simply by being able to use ingredients to prep the meal on-site, instead of needing to purchase pre-made meals from a vendor. This seems especially useful on the longer trains where trying to keep a quality meal fresh for three days with minimal restocking points is difficult if they have to be basically "heat-and-eat" once on board.But it doesn’t require a chef - which seems to be the position that Amtrak is hell bent on eliminating in the east. Maybe because they don’t perform non food related tasks?