AMTRAK Announces It Will No Longer Provide Hot Meal Service??

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AMTRAK Announces It Will No Longer Provide Hot Meal Service??
Posted by RailSpike on Saturday, April 21, 2018 2:39 PM

This topic was included in the AAPRCO most recent update (04/21/18).  Does this mean dining cars are about to vanish on LD trains?  If so, when is AMTRAK planning on doing this?  

  • We continue to be very concerned about the future of long distance trains. This past week, Amtrak announced it will no longer provide hot meal service. It has eliminated parlor cars on the Coast Starlight and has left a fleet of new dining cars in storage at the Hialeah maintenance facility.
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Posted by pajrr on Saturday, April 21, 2018 8:15 PM

Dining cars are getting discontinued on 2 routes, The Capitol Limited and The Lake Shore Limited. All other trains with dining cars will keep them (for now). I believe it is supposed to happen June 1.

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Posted by Alan Follett on Monday, April 23, 2018 11:08 AM

My personal ox hasn't yet been gored on this one.  I'm in California, and haven't had occasion to ride the Lake Shore since 2006, the Capitol since 2001.  However, once, as seems all too likely, the Anderson regeime tries similar shenanigans on the California Zephyr and Coast Starlight, they'll have seen the last of me.

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Posted by Eastrail11 on Monday, April 23, 2018 11:47 AM
The Silver Star already lost its diner, seems like Amtrak liked the result. Wonder why they are storing them in Hialeah, quite far from every other service, Florida. Might have to check it out. ~Eastrail
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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, April 23, 2018 11:55 AM

I wonder if the new head of Amtrak ever took an overnight trip by train. He apparently has no idea of the pleasures found when eating in a railroad diner. During the last 67 years, I have enjoyed eating in diners, whether I traveled coach or sleeper. The current Amtrak diners do not give the same experience that existed into 1980-81; they are much superior to what I experienced in 1982--but this proposed plan is not even up to that of 1982--which was much like what you experience in a McDonald's.

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Posted by Deggesty on Monday, April 23, 2018 12:00 PM

I could also wonder how many of the other people involved in this decision have ever eaten in an Amtrak diner and noted whether the others eating there were coach or sleeper. (You can't tell by the way they dress.)

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Posted by pajrr on Monday, April 23, 2018 1:14 PM

My last time on the Capitol Limited was Thanksgiving Day 2008. The diner was quiet. A special Holiday menu was available. Fresh turkey, mashed potatoes and all the trimmings. A wonderful meal. One of the most memorable meals I had ever had. I have been riding Amtrak since 1983. I saw the birth of Amtrak, the best years and now I am seeing the decline. Very sad.

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Posted by PJS1 on Monday, April 23, 2018 1:38 PM

Deggesty
 I could also wonder how many of the other people involved in this decision have ever eaten in an Amtrak diner and noted whether the others eating there were coach or sleeper. (You can't tell by the way they dress.) 

Amtrak’s operating loss on its food and beverage service in 2012, according to an audit by Amtrak's Inspector General, was $72 million.  Of this amount $71.5 million or 99.3 percent was attributable to the losses on the long-distance trains.
 
Food and beverage revenues on the long-distance trains were $63.5 million, but operating costs were $135 million, resulting in a net operating loss of $71.5 million before application of capital expenses.  Labor costs were the biggest villain.  They amounted to $75.3 million or 119 percent of the revenues.  The Auto Train had the biggest loss at $13.1 million, and the Palmetto had the lowest loss at $218,000.  
 
According to the report, Amtrak reduced it food and beverage operating losses from $105 million in 2006 to $72 million in 2012.  Presumably it has realized further reductions in the food and beverage operating losses since 2012, but to what extent is unknown.  
 
Amtrak knows the number of coach vs. sleeping car passengers that eat in the dining cars, but as far as I know it has not made the information public. 
 
According to the DOT IG's 2005 report, sleeping car passengers made-up more than half of the dining car passengers on the long-distance trains.  The report does not say how much more.  
 
I ride the Texas Eagle and/or the Sunset Limited 8 to 10 times a year.  I usually eat in the dining car when the timing is appropriate.  Roughly 50 to 70 percent of the people at the table have been sleeping car passengers.  

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Posted by pajrr on Monday, April 23, 2018 5:22 PM

Remember the railroads favorite saying: Freight doesn't have to be fed.

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Monday, April 23, 2018 7:52 PM

I can just see a new commerical coming:  A young guy meats someone carrying their cold meal, and his eyes go wide, as that someone enters their sleeper room.  Then BANG, said someone slams the door bring the young guy back to reality.  The tag line is "First Class exists to remind you, you are not in First Class. Next time FLY First Class."

Maybe the Capital Limited will stop on the mainline at a Burger King or Friendlys located along the tracks so the passengers can get a hot meal?  Or better yet, meat a food truck or hot-dog Johnny at a grade cross to feed them?  Just saying how Amtrak can feed the passengers and save millions on equipment & staff.  NS and CSX would not mind the delay, right?

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Posted by CMStPnP on Monday, April 23, 2018 8:03 PM

Hopefully with the new meal service they can start reducing some of their commissaries and replace with LSG Skychefs.

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Posted by BaltACD on Monday, April 23, 2018 8:55 PM

With it being the Capitol Limited - my Grandfather is spinning 78 RPM in his grave, as Superintendent of the B&O Dining Car Dept until his retirement, the Capitol was his baby.

         

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Monday, April 23, 2018 9:29 PM

Wonder what will happen during high travel times with V-2 sleepers lenghtening trains and the demand or lack of sleeper demand due to no traditional diners ?

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, April 23, 2018 10:22 PM

blue streak 1
Wonder what will happen during high travel times with V-2 sleepers lengthening trains and the demand or lack of sleeper demand due to no traditional diners?

Probably one of the least of the problems: since the cold meals are 'prepared to order' shortly before train time, they will mirror the exact makeup of the train and, likely if Amtrak gets a little experience with customer ordering service, precise requested breakdown by entree (no more running out of the beef!)

I should mention that my happiest meals aboard aircraft were during the brief (Continental Airlines?) experiment with overstuffed sandwiches plus drinks and cookies as the in-flight refreshment.  For the cost of a Sky Chefs style spam-in-the-can tray meal you can make one hell of a sandwich with quality ingredients, and in my opinion it is not difficult to customize the 'contents' as kits to be assembled close to serving time.  (It might be a short step from there to Subway-style heating of some types of sandwich...)

If the issue is, indeed, the absolute minimization of dining-car revenue loss, there are many answers that provide net positive revenue -- not sure how many of them include the classical commissary system, though.

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Posted by Miningman on Monday, April 23, 2018 11:30 PM

To Balts point, somewhat anyway-- I'm going to be out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in my little rubber dinghy on this one so get your pellet guns ready so you can pop some holes and send me to the abyss. 

One would think, even expect in many ways, that with all the incredible rich and important history of railroading, the sheer diversity of all those independant railroads, in a free market system, the importance of it all, that ONE railroad stood alone, resisted being swallowed up, kept its pride and maintained not only its own sense of freedom with service but also a fine tradition of independant passenger service between its connecting cities. Just ONE of them against the McDonalization of it all, just ONE that drew on its vast holdings of land and property,  well managed and fiercely proud of its transportation service, just one that said "no thanks" to the trends, never became one of the lemmings running off the cliff. we are who we are and we are very happy, ..and that viewed its passenger service and its fine tradition of Sleepers and Dining Car Service as not only superb advertising for the brand but something highly sought after and desirable. 

Do not tell me that is/was not possible in America. Even here in Canada.. Canadian Pacific could have pulled it off and I say easily. They had it...they had it all and late in the game...I mean they really did have it. Beavers, hotels, a fine network, respect, boats, everything.

I look at that Part V clip of Jim Wrinn's rail trip through PERU and the service offered, at the station and the train itself.....thats PERU, as in PERU. 

Talk of sandwichs and cold vegan wrap offerings as if this is some kind of progressive miracle is totally absurd. This development is ridiculous and shameful. Or shameful and ridiculous, your choice. 

You know I was inspired enough to make Lobster Neuberg this winter after finding out about it on the 20th Century but a vegan wrap or some other sad offering presented up on the alter of efficiency, uncaring, unfriendly, unsocial, passionless, pick a number, who friggin cares middle finger Clockwork Orange nightmare, will not ever inspire me to anything but cynicism. 

Are you kidding me America? Are You? 

OK...start shootin'

 

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, April 23, 2018 11:55 PM

Miningman
You know I was inspired enough to make Lobster Newburg this winter after finding out about it on the 20th Century but a vegan wrap or some other sad offering presented up on the altar of efficiency, uncaring, unfriendly, unsocial, passionless, pick a number, who friggin cares middle finger Clockwork Orange nightmare, will not ever inspire me to anything but cynicism.

Think of it as being 'of a piece' with the Mica-inspired dining car shenanigans on the Florida trains: attempts to find cheap ways to look as if you're 'getting to profitability'.  Sometimes the attempts are cynical, sometimes well-meant, but in a general atmosphere where Amtrak is apparently becoming more and more expected to 'pay its own way' -- and we've been around the tree many times on how this can be done while preserving excellent dining-car cuisine and service experience, with generally depressing end results when practical concerns are included -- even the appearance of a three-star restaurant on wheels that loses money hand over fist is a relatively easy target. 

All it would take is a political countershift for the diners to come back into hot-food service, and I don't believe there is any current discussion about removing equipment from the Viewliner diners... better fact-check me on that... so I'd treat it as a Dolores Umbridge headmistress situation, and plan accordingly.

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 7:49 AM

Quoting from Overmod's post on the Private Car discombobulation thread: "Our Mission Statement clarifies how we will achieve our Vision. As a company and as individual employees, our job is to provide safe transportation in a manner that improves the company’s financial security while ensuring that our customers have a consistent, high-quality travel experience.

How does ceasing to serve hot meals ensure "that our customers have a consistent, high-quality travel experience.?"

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Posted by BaltACD on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 8:58 AM

Deggesty
How does ceasing to serve hot meals ensure "that our customers have a consistent, high-quality travel experience.?"

Tends to insure that customers have a 'blah' experience AT BEST, and more likely a consistantly hateful experience.

Will a 1 oz. bag of pretzels constitute 'meal service' like it now does on airlines?

         

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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 9:50 AM

Deggesty
How does ceasing to serve hot meals ensure "that our customers have a consistent, high-quality travel experience.?"

If the current hot meals are worse enough replacing them with something better but cold  might make the travel more enjoyable?
Regards, Volker

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 11:44 AM

Miningman
One would think, even expect in many ways, that with all the incredible rich and important history of railroading, the sheer diversity of all those independent railroads, in a free market system, the importance of it all, that ONE railroad stood alone, resisted being swallowed up, kept its pride and maintained not only its own sense of freedom with service but also a fine tradition of independent passenger service between its connecting cities. Just ONE of them against the McDonaldization of it all, just ONE that drew on its vast holdings of land and property, well managed and fiercely proud of its transportation service, just one that said "no thanks" to the trends, never became one of the lemmings running off the cliff. we are who we are and we are very happy, ..and that viewed its passenger service and its fine tradition of Sleepers and Dining Car Service as not only superb advertising for the brand but something highly sought after and desirable. Do not tell me that is/was not possible in America.

Closest to it was Santa Fe ... and look what it got them.

In actual fact, a railroad that even attempted to optimize the passenger-service experience regardless of cost would have fallen victim no later than the '80s to 'someone' capable of engineering an acquisition, leveraged buyout, or 'better use of assets' proxy fight action.

There is an old 'saw' about the men who manage men manage the men who manage things, and the men who manage money manage the men who manage men.  The problem is that the men who manage money men manage the men who manage money* ... and there goes any hope of getting either the men or the things to do anything that does not optimize the bottom line while minimizing both risk and unnecessary expenses. 

If there were a market for that kind of service, Iowa Pacific and American Orient Express would have found it ... or Carnival Cruise Lines would have created it.  I myself ran numbers very carefully for both a 'Santa Fe de Luxe' service to Atlantic City, back in the day, and for ridiculously cruise-line-like all-amenities trains from Memphis to the casinos (and 12,000' airstrip!) at Tunica, MS.  There are markets there; just not enough guaranteed regular business to make up the opportunity cost of capital and operations.

The key is to get important details right while providing 'the rest of the service' in the most economical ways modern operations research can provide -- in a word, giving a good customer service experience while executing efficiently.  I believe CMStP&P has given some good examples of the theory in describing models of fast-casual dining ... MANY of those translate across to the restricted model of railroad dining service remarkably well, with the correct emendations where appropriate.

 * Sorry, I couldn't resist a little Euclidean grammatical presentation.

 

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 11:47 AM

Amtrak tries to appeal to all tastes, including those which prefer not to eat meat. Looking at the menus of the three trains with full diners--California Zephyr, Capitol Limited, and Crescent (each one in two directions)--on  my last rrip, I was able to eat satisfying meals (and those with meat were, generally, better than what has been offered me where I live). Joining me at table were people who had likes different from mine--and they seemed to be satisfied. (Of course, if you look at the current menus on these trains, you will little difference among them.)

I do not recall seeing anything about offering choices as to what to eat that my wife and I had when we rode between Portland and Chicago (both ways) eight years ago. We survived, but I would have enjoyed a breakfast such as I had when I rode the North Coast Limited into Portland 47 years ago (SP&S diner). (Since I took the City of Portland back to Chicago, I cannot speak of the SP&S' evening meal).

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 12:00 PM

Overmod

Perhaps the southern railway, on thier Southern Crescent. Even though they did all they could to discourage  traffic in the early to mid  60's.

Another stretch might be Auto train Inc.

They offered  dome sleepers, drawing rooms, bedrooms and roomettes. Thier ding service was buffet style but the train as a whole was good.

And now we have brightline.

 

 
Miningman
One would think, even expect in many ways, that with all the incredible rich and important history of railroading, the sheer diversity of all those independent railroads, in a free market system, the importance of it all, that ONE railroad stood alone, resisted being swallowed up, kept its pride and maintained not only its own sense of freedom with service but also a fine tradition of independent passenger service between its connecting cities. Just ONE of them against the McDonaldization of it all, just ONE that drew on its vast holdings of land and property, well managed and fiercely proud of its transportation service, just one that said "no thanks" to the trends, never became one of the lemmings running off the cliff. we are who we are and we are very happy, ..and that viewed its passenger service and its fine tradition of Sleepers and Dining Car Service as not only superb advertising for the brand but something highly sought after and desirable. Do not tell me that is/was not possible in America.

 

Closest to it was Santa Fe ... and look what it got them.

In actual fact, a railroad that even attempted to optimize the passenger-service experience regardless of cost would have fallen victim no later than the '80s to 'someone' capable of engineering an acquisition, leveraged buyout, or 'better use of assets' proxy fight action.

There is an old 'saw' about the men who manage men manage the men who manage things, and the men who manage money manage the men who manage men.  The problem is that the men who manage money men manage the men who manage money* ... and there goes any hope of getting either the men or the things to do anything that does not optimize the bottom line while minimizing both risk and unnecessary expenses. 

If there were a market for that kind of service, Iowa Pacific and American Orient Express would have found it ... or Carnival Cruise Lines would have created it.  I myself ran numbers very carefully for both a 'Santa Fe de Luxe' service to Atlantic City, back in the day, and for ridiculously cruise-line-like all-amenities trains from Memphis to the casinos (and 12,000' airstrip!) at Tunica, MS.  There are markets there; just not enough guaranteed regular business to make up the opportunity cost of capital and operations.

The key is to get important details right while providing 'the rest of the service' in the most economical ways modern operations research can provide -- in a word, giving a good customer service experience while executing efficiently.  I believe CMStP&P has given some good examples of the theory in describing models of fast-casual dining ... MANY of those translate across to the restricted model of railroad dining service remarkably well, with the correct emendations where appropriate.

 * Sorry, I couldn't resist a little Euclidean grammatical presentation.

 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 12:11 PM

ROBERT WILLISON
Perhaps the Southern Railway, on their Southern Crescent. Even though they did all they could to discourage traffic in the early to mid 60's. Another stretch might be Auto Train Inc. They offered dome sleepers, drawing rooms, bedrooms and roomettes. Their dining service was buffet style but the train as a whole was good.

Both of these can be very interesting examples, and I suspect (but will need a bit more information from 'those who were there') they both have bearing on the specific question miningman was asking.

The period of the Southern Crescent that is of interest here is that FOLLOWING Amtrak Day, when the E units were painted in green and gold and driven by young men proud of their charges.  The direct question was how much time, attention, and care did Southern put into the dining-car service on these trains, and did that change over the years up to the time Amtrak got the train.  I was not there, and don't know, but I'd bet that continuing any sort of reasonable service was a Big Reason To Let Amtrak Have It at whatever usurious cost.

Auto Train was one of the great attempts to make private railroad service profitable with a sensible business model.  I would strongly suspect that an essential part of this was the 'buffet' food model, or putting it a different way the avoidance of all the trouble and expense associated with on-train hot food production, let alone gourmet dining experience.  Very few people taking Auto Train would be on there for the food ... or would be likely to pay the extra cost associated with all the expenses of a fine-dining experience for those passengers who did, in fact, desire it.  (It was my strong impression that one of the chief anticipated traffic sources was families with small children going on vacation in Florida, who could pack to their heart's content and then drive their own car around fully packed without having to brave the Delaware Slide and its counterparts all the way down and back again... that's not a market for high-dollar meals in a limited space.)

On the other hand, domes, lounges, lots of cheap drinks for adults and kids alike... there you have something everyone can use, and most will enjoy.  So put the money and the customer-service faces where it counts most...

The same would apply to most Amtrak LD today, I suspect.

I am watching with some fascination to see how the 'food' amenity situation works out with Brightline, as one of the promising 'drivers' of co-branding would be to have preferential pricing or availability of some food products for consumption on the train.  Vs. the additional turn costs and other potential issues of allowing food consumption on trains in the first place.

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 3:57 PM

[quote user="Overmod"]

 

 
ROBERT WILLISON
Perhaps the Southern Railway, on their Southern Crescent. Even though they did all they could to discourage traffic in the early to mid 60's. Another stretch might be Auto Train Inc. They offered dome sleepers, drawing rooms, bedrooms and roomettes. Their dining service was buffet style but the train as a whole was good.

 

Both of these can be very interesting examples, and I suspect (but will need a bit more information from 'those who were there') they both have bearing on the specific question miningman was asking.

The period of the Southern Crescent that is of interest here is that FOLLOWING Amtrak Day, when the E units were painted in green and gold and driven by young men proud of their charges.  The direct question was how much time, attention, and care did Southern put into the dining-car service on these trains, and did that change over the years up to the time Amtrak got the train.  I was not there, and don't know, but I'd bet that continuing any sort of reasonable service was a Big Reason To Let Amtrak Have It at whatever usurious cost.

Auto Train was one of the great attempts to make private railroad service profitable with a sensible business model.  I would strongly suspect that an essential part of this was the 'buffet' food model, or putting it a different way the avoidance of all the trouble and expense associated with on-train hot food production, let alone gourmet dining experience.  Very few people taking Auto Train would be on there for the food ... or would be likely to pay the extra cost associated with all the expenses of a fine-dining experience for those passengers who did, in fact, desire it.  (It was my strong impression that one of the chief anticipated traffic sources was families with small children going on vacation in Florida, who could pack to their heart's content and then drive their own car around fully packed without having to brave the Delaware Slide and its counterparts all the way down and back again... that's not a market for high-dollar meals in a limited space.)

On the other hand, domes, lounges, lots of cheap drinks for adults and kids alike... there you have something everyone can use, and most will enjoy.  So put the money and the customer-service faces where it counts most...

The same would apply to most Amtrak LD today, I suspect.

I am watching with some fascination to see how the 'food' amenity situation works out with Brightline, as one of the promising 'drivers' of co-branding would be to have preferential pricing or availability of some food products for consumption on the train.  Vs. the additional turn costs and other potential issues of allowing food consumption on trains in the first place.

 

[/quote

My recollection of the southern crescent was not a real elgant dining experience, not a 1925 dinner on the 20 the century. Rather  a very traditional  dining car experience with a cheif cooking on a tradiotradi railroad stove. If I remember the Southern Crescent was created  after Amtrak, from the crescent. The southern crescent also had a dome parlor car added to the train running alt - nol.

The auto train wasn't about the diner,but a magical trip overnight to the Orlando area. I made two trips on it, one night in a former california zepher sleeper,either a 7db/3c or 5 db/3c Pullman. Also watching the signals change from green to red in the dome lounge.

Another mention could be scl seasonal train the Florida speacil. Even in 1970 scl advertising a champagne dinner in the diner. The train had a full range of sleeping accommodations including a budget sleeper ( scl version of a slumber coach ) and a np dome sleeper running Richmond to Miami.  An all sleeper train running from the bitter cold north east to sunny Florida.

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Posted by Deggesty on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 4:21 PM

Historical note: The January 1970 issue of the Guide shows both the Crescent and the Southerner.  The next issue that I have, the April issue, shows that the Crescent was no more, and the Washington-Atlanta-New Orleans train was the Southern Crescent, running through Birmingham. I believe that the change came in February, at the same time that the eastbbound Gulf Wind was consolidated with the Pan American as far as Flomaton.

Back to the subject of the degradation of meal service on two trains between Chicago and the East Coast.

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Posted by ROBERT WILLISON on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 5:38 PM

Thanks johnny, I knew the change was in 1970 or 71.

Too your second point, some one at Amtrak doesn't understand  or under stand the dynamics  or long distance trains.

Dining on board, is essential and part of the on board experience. When your spending 12 or more hours on board, then food service is importsni for both coach and sleeping car passengers. In my Amtrak experience both coach and sleeping car passengers utilizes the dinner. Certainly a better solution to food service can be found than the cold food option.

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Posted by ruderunner on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 7:33 PM

PJS1

 

 
Deggesty
 I could also wonder how many of the other people involved in this decision have ever eaten in an Amtrak diner and noted whether the others eating there were coach or sleeper. (You can't tell by the way they dress.) 

 

Amtrak’s operating loss on its food and beverage service in 2012, according to an audit by Amtrak's Inspector General, was $72 million.  Of this amount $71.5 million or 99.3 percent was attributable to the losses on the long-distance trains.
 
Food and beverage revenues on the long-distance trains were $63.5 million, but operating costs were $135 million, resulting in a net operating loss of $71.5 million before application of capital expenses.  Labor costs were the biggest villain.  They amounted to $75.3 million or 119 percent of the revenues.  The Auto Train had the biggest loss at $13.1 million, and the Palmetto had the lowest loss at $218,000.  
 
According to the report, Amtrak reduced it food and beverage operating losses from $105 million in 2006 to $72 million in 2012.  Presumably it has realized further reductions in the food and beverage operating losses since 2012, but to what extent is unknown.  
 
Amtrak knows the number of coach vs. sleeping car passengers that eat in the dining cars, but as far as I know it has not made the information public. 
 
According to the DOT IG's 2005 report, sleeping car passengers made-up more than half of the dining car passengers on the long-distance trains.  The report does not say how much more.  
 
I ride the Texas Eagle and/or the Sunset Limited 8 to 10 times a year.  I usually eat in the dining car when the timing is appropriate.  Roughly 50 to 70 percent of the people at the table have been sleeping car passengers.  
 

op

 

 

Sorry to drag this whole quote back but, reading this it strikes me as Amtrak management was, is?, Concentrating on the food part of food service losses. As opposed to the service part that's costing big bucks.

 

If I may break this down by paragraph, 99.3% of food losses were on long distance trains? Really? How many commuter trains have food service? Just as important, how much loss did they have compared to revenue?

2nd paragraph shows pretty clearly where the loss is but alas, Amtrak isn't allowed to fix it.

The remaining paragraphs are part of what I seriously dislike about Amtrak. Namely no numbers available to the public, at least none that haven't been filtered to protect the guilty. This goes beyond food service and encompasses pretty much all costs and income.  I feel that a huge part of Amtraks business failure (not that I expect it to be profitable) is due to obsfucation of the numbers. The public certainly doesn't know what's going on, the government might know more but I suspect that Amtraks internal numbers are so obscure that even management can't figure it out!

I don't think this is a matter of national security and it certainly isn't a matter of protecting trade secrets from competition.

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Posted by pajrr on Tuesday, April 24, 2018 7:37 PM

Bring back meal stops, ala Harvey Houses. "Everyone out and into the restaurant. Be back on board in 15 minutes!"

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Posted by Dakguy201 on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 7:07 AM

From Atlanta Delta flies nonstop as far as Munich, Venice or Buenos Aires.  From Seattle Delta has nonstops to Bejing, Shanghai or Hong Kong.  Those routes also contain world class competitors.  Especially in First Class, both hot and cold food is an important amenity.  In his former position, I suspect Mr. Anderson had the phones of senior executives at his meal suppliers on speed dial!

It is beyond me why just a little of that expertise can not rub off on Amtrak.  However, it's getting apparent  that isn't going to happen.

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Posted by CMStPnP on Wednesday, April 25, 2018 7:35 AM

Dakguy201

From Atlanta Delta flies nonstop as far as Munich, Venice or Buenos Aires.  From Seattle Delta has nonstops to Bejing, Shanghai or Hong Kong.  Those routes also contain world class competitors.  Especially in First Class, both hot and cold food is an important amenity.  In his former position, I suspect Mr. Anderson had the phones of senior executives at his meal suppliers on speed dial!

It is beyond me why just a little of that expertise can not rub off on Amtrak.  However, it's getting apparent  that isn't going to happen.

Here is the rub though and shows you how incredibly stupid Amtrak management was in the late 1970's and even with the second Superliner order which they could have easily made the correction.     When they ordered the Dining Cars they had more than 60% of the space on the car devoted to kitchen preparation of meals and serving of meals while the train was moving.     They could have built a bi-level dining / lounge car and saved significant cost, just by going the airline or bistro car route.   However Amtrak management at the time wanted to maintain the status quo and blew the space and the money.

Horribly expensive proposition now to redo what is essentially a full length kitchen car on the lower level and I don't think Amtrak has that kind of money on hand or is unwilling to take the risk.    For one they are largely stuck with whatever the voltage draw is on the thing and  I am betting those heat up microwave on airlines suck more power than any oven Amtrak has.    Any revamp of the Dining car would probably draw a lot more power from the train, which would mean a supplimental power plant.

I would turn the Superliner Dining Car into a bistro car.   Widen the staircase to the lower level (though I suspect Superliner Staircases are deliberately narrow for safety reasons of not having someone old fall down a full flight of stairs).    Cut the kitchen space by 60% or more and replace with warm up ovens like the airlines use.    Put tables in the lower level along with windows.     Convert half the upper level to dining area and the other half to lounge car.     Drop the full length lounge car from the consist.    That is not a minor rebuild though.   It will cost probably almost as much as a new car.   Plus you would have to increase HVAC, possibly add a restroom, increase the voltage draw significantly.      It would save having to pull one extra car on the Capitol Limited though and probably result in a lot more efficient labor costs as it would be staffed all the time.

With it's future railcar design, Amtrak should treat non-revenue space just like the airlines do or even as conservatively as Brightline does.    That move alone would save fairly significant operating costs without a huge loss to the passengers of abiility to roam or change seats.    Meal quality would still be acceptable and table turns would probably be faster with the airline meals probably resulting in more savings.

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