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Will full service dining ever return to the Western trains?

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Steve4031

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The problem is that too many companies use COVID as an excuse to cut back. On a recent toad trip I stayed at several Hilton garden inns and received full breakfast. The same at Perkins. When you make cutbacks you eliminate jobs and this affects human beings. This cut cut cut mentality needs to change.
 

Sidney

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Jul 12, 2020
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I mentioned this in an earlier post. If this flex dining is here to stay why can't we have other choices like sandwiches or subs and food from the cafe car that isn't offered in the flex menu like pizza and a burger?

I have a circle trip planned on the Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief next month. The substandard meals do not deter me from riding,but again why don't we have more choices on the flex menu? We are paying a lot of money for a sleeper. I guess Amtrak just doesn't care.
 

20th Century Rider

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I mentioned this in an earlier post. If this flex dining is here to stay why can't we have other choices like sandwiches or subs and food from the cafe car that isn't offered in the flex menu like pizza and a burger?
You have a valid point. I don't see why Amtrak can't expand the cafe offerings and totally do away with the flex meal kitchen. It would offer more and better choices for sleeping car passengers who are paying so much. They could just provide room number as they did in the former restaurant and allow for ordering a salad, main course, dessert, and drink? I believe they are actually doing this now on the Lake Shore between BOS and ALB.

This alternative solution would could save Amtrak money and would make everyone happier. Wondering how many sleeping car passengers would actually prefer the limited flex meal program to open choice in the cafe which would negate this suggestion???
 

Skyline

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Feb 19, 2016
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We should not expect the "new normal" to revert to anything like the "old normal" until Covid-19 is clearly under control. Whether trains or anything else in society. And the virus won't be under control until we have national officials all on the same science-based page to lead the effort. Obviously, the route Trump, McConnell, et al have taken has only made it a lot worse with no end in sight. Other nations have done much better with far less.

Having said that, there are things Congress COULD do in the interim to shore up Amtrak so when the day comes, transition back to "normal" is easier. For example, planning for success instead of failure regarding on-board services including dining, and legislating that operating railroads return slots to pax trains that will temporarily go from daily to tri-weekly.
 

20th Century Rider

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So where's the lack of basic creative initiative on the part of Amtrak to come up with workable solutions that would save money, address the restrictions brought about by the virus, and at the same time bring some sort of acceptable quality for the passenger? Amtrak's lack of direction shows that no one is actually 'minding the store.'
 

20th Century Rider

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I mentioned this in an earlier post. If this flex dining is here to stay why can't we have other choices like sandwiches or subs and food from the cafe car that isn't offered in the flex menu like pizza and a burger?

I have a circle trip planned on the Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief next month. The substandard meals do not deter me from riding,but again why don't we have more choices on the flex menu? We are paying a lot of money for a sleeper. I guess Amtrak just doesn't care.
No apparent direction at Amtrak. It mimics the government bureaucracy... no one cares about us!:rolleyes:
 

lordsigma

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You have a valid point. I don't see why Amtrak can't expand the cafe offerings and totally do away with the flex meal kitchen. It would offer more and better choices for sleeping car passengers who are paying so much. They could just provide room number as they did in the former restaurant and allow for ordering a salad, main course, dessert, and drink? I believe they are actually doing this now on the Lake Shore between BOS and ALB.

This alternative solution would could save Amtrak money and would make everyone happier. Wondering how many sleeping car passengers would actually prefer the limited flex meal program to open choice in the cafe which would negate this suggestion???
I don’t know. The cafe car isn’t anything to write home about and has some ok and some terrible offerings - I certainly wouldn’t want it as the only option on a really long trip. I do think offering some of the lighter options such as a hot dog and ham burger or salad or sandwich would be a good alternative particularly for lunch. There’s no reason why you can’t stock some of these same items in the diner along with the flex meals And have the LSA heat those as a meal alternative - they are already doing it with the jimmy dean breakfast sandwiches which are the same ones served in the cafe.
 

20th Century Rider

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I don’t know. The cafe car isn’t anything to write home about and has some ok and some terrible offerings - I certainly wouldn’t want it as the only option on a really long trip. I do think offering some of the lighter options such as a hot dog and ham burger or salad or sandwich would be a good alternative particularly for lunch. There’s no reason why you can’t stock some of these same items in the diner along with the flex meals And have the LSA heat those as a meal alternative - they are already doing it with the jimmy dean breakfast sandwiches which are the same ones served in the cafe.
Am in somewhat partial agreement. But the point to be made is that the cafe menu can be expanded to include more variety and quality; and simply replace the flex kitchen and attendant... or have two attendants in an expanded cafe car. Food catering can easily come up with chef salads as well as cheese/cracker/veggie snacks; and fresh fruit. As I mentioned earlier, sleeping car passengers use the cafe between BOS and ALB on the Lakeshore and I've found it to be a much more enjoyable food experience.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
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Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
I read the various posts about inadequate AC. My experience on the SW Chief in May and August in the actual southwest was the opposite. During the first trip in May, I discovered that it is quite comfortable in summer clothes during the day, but at night, it turned into an icebox. So I was prepared with layers of clothes for the August trip, but I was still too cold during the night. The solar gain down here is extremely powerful.
That's just it - totally unpredictable. What's your idea of freezing, by the way? I keep my home 68-70.
 

Ferroequinologist

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I don’t know. The cafe car isn’t anything to write home about and has some ok and some terrible offerings - I certainly wouldn’t want it as the only option on a really long trip. I do think offering some of the lighter options such as a hot dog and ham burger or salad or sandwich would be a good alternative particularly for lunch. There’s no reason why you can’t stock some of these same items in the diner along with the flex meals And have the LSA heat those as a meal alternative - they are already doing it with the jimmy dean breakfast sandwiches which are the same ones served in the cafe.
Good grief. Can't we even have a simple sandwich (not one of those awful 'wraps') and a cup of soup for lunch? I don't want the same food for lunch and dinner. Let's face it, Amtrak management simply doesn't care. This forum gives us a chance to vent but it's very highly unlikely in Amtrak management reads this.
 

Steve4031

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On some occasions I have had cheeseburgers comped. It his happened 2 of 4 times on 48 and once on the Cardinal. Individual employees stayed that since I was in n first class it was ok. On the times I paid the employee simply charged me. One time I asked and the employee stayed this wasn’t policy. I’m not sure what the official policy is but individual LSAs have done this.
 

20th Century Rider

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Good grief. Can't we even have a simple sandwich (not one of those awful 'wraps') and a cup of soup for lunch? I don't want the same food for lunch and dinner. Let's face it, Amtrak management simply doesn't care. This forum gives us a chance to vent but it's very highly unlikely in Amtrak management reads this.
I applaud your every word because it jives exactly with what so many of us on this forum are saying. The tiny tasteless monotonous flex food meals are disgraceful, disrespectful, wasteful, unhealthy, and reflective of a complete separation of Amtrak management with its customers. But why don't they just fix their error in management judgement when the result could both make customers happier and save them money at the same time??? Makes no sense at all!

Oh well... we're just tripping over ourselves as we repeat the same concerns to deaf ears.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
I mentioned this in an earlier post. If this flex dining is here to stay why can't we have other choices like sandwiches or subs and food from the cafe car that isn't offered in the flex menu like pizza and a burger?

I have a circle trip planned on the Texas Eagle and Southwest Chief next month. The substandard meals do not deter me from riding,but again why don't we have more choices on the flex menu? We are paying a lot of money for a sleeper. I guess Amtrak just doesn't care.
Yes they don't care. Do you think Amtrak management ride LD trains?
 

west point

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Jun 9, 2015
Messages
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From bits and pieces of what some experts are afraid of our opion is that Covid-19 will not be contained before October - Dec 31, 2021. It will take that long to get workable tretments and a possible vaccine into most US persons and containment of the rest of the potential world, Non vaccinated persons will not be able to travel to the USA. Just because a vaccine might ( A very big if) be approved by Jan 1, 2021 manufacturer and distribution will take time.

At present any government expert or any bussiness connected to government cannot say so because (s)he would be fired immediately. Then a terrible campaign of discrediting against the person.
So do not expect any change in dinning before a bill can pass guaranteeing daily Amtrak service. Then if the present bill stays the same then maybe partial and then full dinning might return ?

Remember if the USA develops a vaccine it will not just need 300 million doses for US residents but politically it will need 1 Billion doses for our allies if they have not developed a vaccine.
 
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Joined
Mar 8, 2015
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I just looked at the flexible dining menus for the first time. Is it bad that the first thing I noticed, was that somehow only Coke and Ginger ale are on offer? How flexible do passengers have to be for Amtrak not to offer sprite? Not to even mention root beer.
 

Ferroequinologist

Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
144
From bits and pieces of what some experts are afraid of our opion is that Covid-19 will not be contained before October - Dec 31, 2021. It will take that long to get workable tretments and a possible vaccine into most US persons and containment of the rest of the potential world, Non vaccinated persons will not be able to travel to the USA. Just because a vaccine might ( A very big if) be approved by Jan 1, 2021 manufacturer and distribution will take time.

At present any government expert or any bussiness connected to government cannot say so because (s)he would be fired immediately. Then a terrible campaign of discrediting against the person.
So do not expect any change in dinning before a bill can pass guaranteeing daily Amtrak service. Then if the present bill stays the same then maybe partial and then full dinning might return ?

Remember if the USA develops a vaccine it will not just need 300 million doses for US residents but politically it will need 1 Billion doses for our allies if they have not developed a vaccine.
They are rushing the development of a vaccine by bypassing some of the normal protocols. The risk is that it could turn out like the 1976 flu vaccine that had some very serious side effects. There is going to be resistance to a vaccine that a lot of people will feel has not been carefully tested over a period of time. And, as you say, it will take time to get people vaccinated. Such a vaccine may only have a 50% efficacy according to Fauci and may only work for three months. Various vaccines may be needed due to multiple strains. The point is that this is going to be a long, complex process. There is no panacea. Meanwhile, if Amtrak's concern is social distancing they have NO EXCUSE for the miserable food they are now offering. They can either improve the frozen food offerings to be more like airline first class or bring back a chef. Meals can be delivered to rooms. If they don't do this they will just keep extending the 'flexible' meals indefinitely. I'm pretty sure they will do the latter, if in fact the LD trains even survive.
 

Barb Stout

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Mar 13, 2019
Messages
478
That's just it - totally unpredictable. What's your idea of freezing, by the way? I keep my home 68-70.
Oh yeah, in the summer this Albuqueno would be chilly at 68 F if I was just sitting around all day. That's the temperature I keep the house at in the winter--sweater weather-- and I love to wear my sweaters. In the summer, I keep it at 74-75 F. But I really don't know what the temperature was on the SWC when the sun went down, although I would guess that it was less than 68 F.
 

Barb Stout

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Messages
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I think the main "protocol" that was bypassed is running certain phases (Phase 1 and Phase 2, for example) at the same time rather than waiting for a complete analysis of 1 phase before proceeding to the next phase which is what is usually done. I'm not too worried about that. Several vaccines are now in Phase 3 where they test it in thousands and thousands of volunteers. I was thinking of signing up for that as one of the vaccines is about to start phase 3 trials where I live, but I did decide against it because I just don't get out much, so am not too likely to be exposed to the virus anyway.
 

Barb Stout

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Joined
Mar 13, 2019
Messages
478
They are rushing the development of a vaccine by bypassing some of the normal protocols. The risk is that it could turn out like the 1976 flu vaccine that had some very serious side effects.
I think the main "protocol" that was bypassed is running certain phases (Phase 1 and Phase 2, for example) at the same time rather than waiting for a complete analysis of 1 phase before proceeding to the next phase which is what is usually done. I'm not too worried about that. Several vaccines are now in Phase 3 where they test it in thousands and thousands of volunteers. That's the phase where you might see some untoward effects that might not show up in the earlier safety and efficacy trials which are tested with fewer and healthy people. If they start rolling out a vaccine whose Phase 3 trial data has not been fully analyzed, then that would be really bad, but I don't think that would happen. But I guess "fully" is a relative term, so maybe I should edit that word "fully" out of the sentence. I was thinking of signing up for a Phase 3 trial as one of the vaccines is about to start phase 3 trials where I live, but I did decide against it because I just don't get out much, so am not too likely to be exposed to the virus anyway.
 

Devil's Advocate

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The American pharmaceutical industry has been manufacturing vaccine doses in commercial quantities since early in the candidate testing process. This allows for much faster distribution and application after an eventual approval, but it also makes assumptions about safety and muddies the water if a fault or failure is identified. Let's say you're a government regulator who is advised that there are some troubling results with the latest vaccine trials but that fixing the formula will require throwing millions of doses in the trash and starting over from scratch with several months of delay to get back to where you started. Some of us would take the safer path, even if it meant our careers were destroyed and family threatened or harmed in the process, but others would simply weigh the risks vs benefits and decide it would be easier to explain releasing too early rather than too late. In the case of a typical first responder it might make sense to take the vaccine no matter what, but any decision that involves hundreds of millions needs to be handled thoughtfully rather than rushed to the finish line. That's the danger that concerns me.
 
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20th Century Rider

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Oregon Coast
Mmmmm! looks so good. Makes my mouth water and my eyes shut (or is it my eyes water an my mouth shut?)

I can't understand how anyone could want a stupid old steak with baked potato, half chicken or Angus burger when you have one of these beauties to gorge on!
Feeling your pain... and the disappointment of so many on this forum who have been so patient and hopeful that this dark cloud would just go away... better this 'feed' be given to the pigs in the barn. Such small processed food product meals are not fresh and not healthy... and in no way satisfying... and to serve the same repetitious monotonous stuff every day over and over again on these three day two night cross country runs throughout the system is just nasty to the customer. Albeit in concert with reduced service. Personally my enthusiasm to pay higher prices and get so much less is... ka'put! Very very sad. 🤢 :oops::mad:

View attachment 18384
Look closely at this picture... see those teenie tiny mini salads? They have indeed discontinued the teenie tiny carrot shavings! I'm wondering what's next to go... perhaps the cherry tomato? Oh my!o_O
 

Nick Farr

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Dec 25, 2019
Messages
263
Location
Michigan
Basically, it comes down to this:

From the Amtrak Service Line Plans FY 21-25:

"Millennials, the largest population cohort, seek travel experiences that are inexpensive yet Instagram-worthy, with seamless Wi-Fi capability for any work or leisure/social activity. In contrast, Baby Boomers gravitate toward luxury experiences with differentiated amenities, yet also value seamless connectivity. As a responsible steward of federal dollars, Amtrak must ensure we are making investments that maximize public benefit"

The Long Distance Trains provide Instagram-worthy sights and relative comfort even if food is not included. The market that cares deeply about the food is not the market Amtrak wants on the trains. Most of the Instagram set I've seen on the LD trains don't really care one way or another about the food, it wouldn't prevent them from making the trip.

The other thing is that the LD trains are a hybrid product. The Auto Train IS an all-sleeper luxury product designed to get people down to their vacation homes in Florida. It will continue to grow as a service line since it was designed from the beginning to serve one purpose and one purpose only.

All of the other LD routes serve a variety of customers going to a variety of different destinations. These LD routes are there because they serve rural populations that like having a train around, but make most of their money from those traveling longer distances.
 
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