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crescent-zephyr

Who's running Amtrak f&b!?

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I was on 29 thus morning and over heard Amtrak management types discussing various improvements that they thought should happen.

 

One was noting that during a meal in the diner she discovered that new pax were not aware of the metropolitan lounge in Chicago. She noted that onboard announcements might help. Not sure we need more announcements but perhaps this would work.

 

Another discussion covered the idea of selling alcoholic beverages in the lounge.

 

They were discussing dining car inconsistencies. And the need to improve the conl. I chipped in at this point and pointed out that the menu on the conl was particularly bad, to the point that I did not consider it for a trip down to new Orleans to take a cruise in August. One guy agreed and chatted with me a minute. He enthusiastically acknowledged the issues with 58-59.

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Wow! Some managers got out of their offices to see real life. More should be required to ride a few weeks every year, then maybe they would support some needed changes. Also the affect of negative changes on the passengers.

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Wow! Some managers got out of their offices to see real life. More should be required to ride a few weeks every year, then maybe they would support some needed changes. Also the affect of negative changes on the passengers.

Required to ride?

If I was one of them, I'd turn to my associate, and exclaim: "Can you believe they actually pay us to do this?" :)

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A few thoughts about food at Disney...

 

I worked for the Mouse for 8 years (5 in Tokyo and 3 in Florida). I'll only refer to my time in Florida.

 

The quality of the food and the value paid has generally been better than its competitors. As much as I complained about the cost at Disney, when I went to Universal or Sea World, the prices scared me.

 

My first job at WDW was working in F&B at the Yacht and Beach Club resort hotels. The cast member (employee) cafeteria was located in between the two hotels. They offered food left over from the restaurants from both hotels. Most memorably, they served AWESOME New England Clam Chowder from Cape May Cafe for only 90 cents.

 

Then Aramark signed a contract with the company to provide for all the food service to the employees. Prices tripled and quality deteriorated. Meanwhile, the customers could still rely on Disney-Employee-Prepared food "on stage". Only the cast backstage had to suffer.

 

Then the newest (at the time I was there) resort opened - Coronado Springs. In addition to Fulton's Crab House and most of the Pleasure Island restaurants being contracted out, for the first time, a Disney resort was outsourcing their F&B. By that time, I left, and I have no idea what's happened since 1998.

 

That all being said, for the most part, you won't be getting bargains at Disney - but you tend to get decent value - a differentiation from other themed properties.

 

Amtrak's F&B is one of the most disjointed operations that I'm aware of being under one company banner. Even though some routes are subsidized by states, etc., the inconsistencies in Business Class are legendary - with absolutely no apparent effort in the past TWO DECADES to correct (or improve).

 

I find ways of talking myself out of riding Amtrak more and more lately.

 

You know - the Shinkansen in Japan when it opened in 1964 made the 320 mile journey in around 4 hours. Now it takes as little as 2 hours and 22 minutes. The dining and buffet cars were abolished not necessarily due to revenue/cost, but because the necessity of it was obsoleted by the speed. The only staff on board the train are pushing trolley carts or the conductor and assistants. No OBS or car attendant. Everyone knew where their seat was.

(1) I'll generally agree about the decent value. I will also say that the food at WDW (particularly Epcot) is definitely better than at Sea World and somewhat better than at Universal (though the Harry Potter areas are better than the parks tend to be on average). It depends on where you go, though, to be fair (and Magic Kingdom has traditionally lagged the other parks in this respect). I will say that while I love Busch Gardens Williamsburg dearly, outside of the Food & Wine Festival the in-park options leave something to be desired (though I should check out some of their overhauled venues this year).

 

(2) The disconnect reached an all-time peak when they forced Ed Ellis to label what he was offering on the Hoosier State as "Business Class". When I compare the salmon and fresh-baked cookie I had in February with the complementary soda or juice on a Regional...dear gods, it was an absurd contrast. Amtrak really needs to work up some sort of way to differentiate the service differences a little bit (even if it's pointedly labeling different BC offerings by their service names). Of course, I'd also love to see them actually offer something "better than" Regional Business Class on some of the VA Regionals...but that's another rant entirely.

 

(3) I cannot speak to transitions over time in Japan, but I also wonder if the abolition had something to do with the rise of available grab-and-go food options at stations as well? I can imagine that this has improved since the 1960s as well. I remember a mention that the rise of vendors at Grand Central was dinging the performance of the New Haven Line bar cars.

Edited by Anderson

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One major company I worked at for a couple decades found the managers became attached to their desks and the office. It became a comfort zone, so more and more managers did not get into the field. The CEO decided to show up unannounced for a customer meeting first level sales was having. One day turned into a whole week. The following Monday, there was a mandatory conference call with every VP in the company hearing about the brand new "AIC" program, effective immediately, completion was required for any bonus payout and/or merit pay increases. I can tell you things changed, mostly good, a few bad, but field staff attitudes had positive change as did our customer satisfaction. Amtrak needs to unglue all their managers ASAP.

 

("AIC" = ass in car)

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Do you actually have any data to support your contention that Amtrak managers never get out of the office, or is that just another one of those "realities" that found their way into the "everyone knows" category without any actual connection to reality?

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Wow! Some managers got out of their offices to see real life. More should be required to ride a few weeks every year, then maybe they would support some needed changes. Also the affect of negative changes on the passengers.

My now former OBS manager just took a promotion and is essentially in charge of all OBS managers on the west coast. He flew out Monday morning, and he's already been out to see the Capitol Corridor or San Joaquins, I'm not sure which. Thursday he says he'll be out on the Pacific Surfliner. I'm sure he'll keep at it, knowing him. Some here do take pride in their job.

 

I told him to just let me know when he gets to the Cascades, since that's all I'm curious about!

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Sounds like the New Management Philosophy @ Amtrak is starting to take effect.😎

 

Hopefully Chicago will receive long needed attention!

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Do you actually have any data to support your contention that Amtrak managers never get out of the office, or is that just another one of those "realities" that found their way into the "everyone knows" category without any actual connection to reality?

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 

I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.

 

If they were checking on your performance discretely how did you even know they visited you?

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 

Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort. And it would be quite easy to do. Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc. They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip. Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews. The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train. Personally, I would volunteer whole-heartedly for that job.

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Perhaps they could cross-reference with AGR members to select those with enough Amtrak experience to have some sense of the difference between a real problem and just a bad day.

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Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort. And it would be quite easy to do. Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc. They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip. Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews. The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train.

Secret shoppers are a good idea and when done properly they can work wonders exposing institutional failures and management blindness. Unfortunately a proper secret shopper setup tends to require more time and effort (and money) than most businesses are willing to spend, so they simply outsource it with third parties who couldn't care less what is discovered or who does the inspecting.

 

 

Perhaps they could cross-reference with AGR members to select those with enough Amtrak experience to have some sense of the difference between a real problem and just a bad day.

I happen to think allowing employees to treat customers poorly just because they're having a "bad day" is part of the problem. Employing AGR members will likely skew the results toward whatever minimal standards commuters expect on the way to and from work, which is probably not much and unlikely to be applicable to the rest of the country. I'd rather hear what new customers and people who are familiar with passenger rail in other countries happen to think about Amtrak's service standards.

Edited by Devil's Advocate

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?
I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.
If they were checking on your performance discretely how did you even know they visited you?

That's a possibility too. Usually they get up in your face and nosey. Had one manager who drove everyone nuts (thankfully she's retired) who tried to get after me for having a newspaper in an unused ice well. I had put it there so I didn't offend a passenger who told me to have it because I looked bored, and I was waiting until they were out of eyesight to throw it out. Apparently she missed that part. On a previous date she also forced me to do something that I should have refused to do in the name of safety, but being fairly new I did it anyway. I was so irritated by the rules she was breaking and making me break that I almost marked off and deadheaded home.

 

Whoops. Little off topic there. =o

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I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort. And it would be quite easy to do. Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc. They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip. Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews. The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train. Personally, I would volunteer whole-heartedly for that job.

I don't know if it's urban legend or not, but I have been told by many different that there are spotters, though it's said they're more concerned with making sure I'm not giving stuff away for free, and I'm providing receipts like I'm suppose to. How true it is, I'll probably never know.

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We had Mystery Shoppers with our company. They contacted a number of people who would pose as customers, who had been through a training session of what was minimum, all the line items that the shopper had to evaluate, the essay parts with details, and how to provide an objective opinion without regard to what they had heard, seen, or experienced previously. These shoppers also carried a business card they suppose to only hand out once or twice a month for superb, unexpected, top notch performance. All the card said was Congratulations on a your work today. Please call this number after work today. Either the CEO or COO of the company would answer inviting the employee to a special recognition dinner in the future where they would receive a very special gift. This really kept everyone on their toes since word of a card being handed out spread fast. Our company had almost 60K employees in the USA.

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Wow! Some managers got out of their offices to see real life. More should be required to ride a few weeks every year, then maybe they would support some needed changes. Also the affect of negative changes on the passengers.

My now former OBS manager just took a promotion and is essentially in charge of all OBS managers on the west coast. He flew out Monday morning, and he's already been out to see the Capitol Corridor or San Joaquins, I'm not sure which. Thursday he says he'll be out on the Pacific Surfliner. I'm sure he'll keep at it, knowing him. Some here do take pride in their job.

 

I told him to just let me know when he gets to the Cascades, since that's all I'm curious about!

 

I don't get out there too much but my trips on the Cascades I've had really exceptional service in the cafe car. A few years ago (not sure if they still operate this way) they had 2 people working the "Bistro" car and the hot food they served was more dining car style. A specific example.. I ordered oatmeal and was expecting a cup of instant oatmeal.. I got the dining car oatmeal in an amtrak bowl with the side of brown sugar and raisins served just like you would get it in the diner.

 

Also... they give Business Class passengers a coupon with a Dollar amount they can use for anything they want to in the Bistro car... that makes way more sense to me then some of the chicago rules.

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All depends on what you call "Disney food" - you can get the worst over-priced burger in your life at electric umbrella... Or have a AAA 4 or 5 diamond rated meal at Jiko or Victoria and Alberts. And everywhere in between all over property.

 

I was quite pleased with Jiko. It wasn't "dumbed down." They were bold with their spices and flavors.

 

 

 

 

 

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 

I don't remember what the OBS managers from NYP or WAS look like, and they've visited me.

 

If they were checking on your performance discretely how did you even know they visited you?

 

 

 

You'll know when you're approached about something you barely recall or when someone makes a comment (good or bad) about a trip you don't recall.

 

 

 

I can't speak for upper level managers, but lower level managers such as OBS managers, and even the OBS supervisors that work in crew base fielding any problems that might arise for us, are definitely -required- to do a certain amount of ridealongs.

What concerns me is the well-known tendency for employees to be on their best behavior while The Boss is watching but then go back to business as usual when the coast is clear. I'd expect most OBS to recognize their managers and supervisors. Is there much cross-pollination between regions so that someone other than a familiar face is doing the checking up?

 

Amtrak should employ "secret shoppers" of sort. And it would be quite easy to do. Every so often, contact a ticketed customer, be it someone in coach or first class, and ask them to do a survey of food service from the staff to see how they are doing and include the food itself....taste, selections, availability, suggestions, etc. They would then be comped a percentage off of the cost of their trip. Or else they could "hire" people to ride the different trains and ask for their reviews. The crews would not know who or if a secret shopper was on their train. Personally, I would volunteer whole-heartedly for that job.

 

 

 

There's an entire armada of secret shoppers and corporate managers that act as spotters. There are also a number of supervisors that can (and do) report and document discrepancies (real or imagined). That is on top of the managers that are assigned to the system. A various time of the year, they do regional shake ups in which members will report to other divisions to reduce the risk of familiarity.

 

In the true spirit of NS, they have attempted to hire roving compliance officers that are willing to spend the 90% of the year traveling. Their sole purpose is compliance testing throughout the entire system (as opposed to working a region.) It sounds good if you're single.

 

However, managers, superintendents or the CEO's office can only work with the tools they are given. The Lake Shore Limited fought tooth and nail to preserve their dining car. They even launched a salvo demanding that another group short turn their equipment to yield additional equipment. Managers being out in the field didn't yield any results and fighting for their train didn't have an impact.

 

The Auto Train cuts are embarrassing to some of the leaders. Indeed, a couple of people actually left as a result. Their advocacy accomplished nothing (and in a lot of cases, the passengers advocacy) accomplished nothing. This is the money your group gets for F&B. PERIOD.

 

I worked with Pennsylvanian group many years ago. Do you know how long the person in charge of it has been asking a baggage car? He had customer feedback, station cooperation and even host cooperation. It didn't matter. I harped on OTP and was basically told that as long as the train was in tolerance, I could pound sand since more money could be made running tenant trains on time than running our own train on time.

 

That's pretty sweet.

 

You still are under the corporate structure...and I think they need more time on the rails.

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"There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

-- Sam Walton

 

"EVERY GUEST on our entire 42 square miles of property is a VIP whether they are visiting the Magic kingdom for a day or vacationing in our resort-hotels for a week or more...Remember that 99% of our guests are great people with everything going their way and having the time of their life. They are the easy ones to serve. Your real challenge will be that tiny 1%...the guests who are hot, tired, hungry, confused, frustrated and perhaps missing their luggage, ticket books or cameras. Or perhaps all of the above. They may not be very understanding and it may be up to you to turn their day around into the positive kind they came here to experience."

 

--1975 Walt Disney World Cast Member booklet

 

"If you don't care, your customer never will."

 

-- Marlene Blaszczyk, Motivational Specialist

 

"Every company's greatest assets are its customers, because without customers there is no company."

 

— Michael LeBoeuf

 

"Customers are an investment. Maximize your return."

 

— PeopleSoft Ad

 

"Good customer service costs less than bad customer service."

 

— Sally Gronow

 

Point is, Amtrak hardly acts like their in it for the passengers, customers, guests. They're there to run a railroad and the accompanying numbers.

 

Sadly many great industrial leaders (Disney, Walton, Penney, etc) have seen their companies struggle as their vision is passed to the next generation. Disney seems to be doing pretty well, but the heart there is more hollow than it used to be.

 

For more: https://www.helpscout.net/customer-service-quotes/inspirational/

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The sordid saga of Amtrak getting placed under the spell of a hostile finance man the last several years will never ever become public to the fullest extent. It has been much worse than usual in the latter part of the Boardman regime, sometimes not even wholly in his control apparently. It is yet to be seen whether Mr. Moorman can actually change much, though some early indications appear to be somewhat positive. I am sure Thirdrail can throw more light on this, to the extent it does not jeopardize his own existence and well being.

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A customer first attitude is a founding leg of any successful business, and a lack of it is almost always present in the failure of one. But the fact of the matter is, the only department stores (a business that was created purely from the concept of customer service) I know that provide good customer service these days is Nordstrom's and Boscov's. And Nordstroms is flagging on that.

 

A lack of understanding employee treatment and customer service and the relationship between the two is sorely lacking almost everywhere. The problems plaguing Amtrak are often treated as an Amtrak problem here... but a lot of them are much more societal.

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