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Chefs being removed off Capitol Limited

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If this is the direction they are going - why did they bother to order dining cars? What a waste. They should have ordered vending machine cars if that was their intention. Then when the vending machine cars were delayed 5 years we wouldn’t be disappointed

 

 

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The new Viewliner II diners are single-level and can't be used on the Capitol Limited. That said, there has been talk of a possible conversion to single-level cars on the CL, in which case V-IIs would probably be added and used as diner-lites.

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The CL has certainly changed for the worse over the years. I remember the DC being full for dinner with three seatings or more. Both Sleeping Car sold out and Coaches well populated. During the 1990's and early 2000's, I traveled more weeks than not on the Cap CHI/WAS. Sad seeing service degrading as a regular passenger, but I also feel for those who made their living on the CL for decades.

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As the saying goes, "Its no way to run a railroad".. Is the new CEO who likes to cut money behind this? Running off passengers is not an improvement in my book. For quite a while the Diners was one of the few reasons to take the train, now they have ruined that as well.

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Honestly both times I've been on the Cap as a passenger and the one time I've been on the LSL as a passenger the diner has not really done brisk business at breakfast. And generally I go at eight am or so.

 

Now dinner wise the cap seams to have decent patronage but remember it's only half the car. So it doesn't take a lot to make it appear to be full. While the last time I was on the Lake Shore I had a table to myself and there were plenty of empty tables at dinner.

 

The diner with the best performance I've experienced was the Coast Starlight. Even the abbreviated dinner into LAX was well patronized. All meals in both the PPC and diner were full.

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Regardless of the type of car used, both the TE and CL have (up to this point) the regular National Dining Car Menu, and a chef on board.

 

If the CL looses it's chef, the menu could wind up like the CONO, which would be the worst case or the Lake Shore which would be the best case

in this scenario, the Cardinal being the middle of this pack.

 

The timing for this would make sense since the Spring menu changes are due.

 

Ken

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Is the ‘chef removal’ confirmed from Amtrak?

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Amtrak Forum

 

How would they "confirm" this. I highly doubt Amtrak would put out a press release that they are removing chefs from trains. Maybe a third party would come out with the details. Amtrak did indirectly announce the dining car was removed from the SS when they advertised of lower priced roomettes.

 

As the saying goes, "Its no way to run a railroad".. Is the new CEO who likes to cut money behind this? Running off passengers is not an improvement in my book. For quite a while the Diners was one of the few reasons to take the train, now they have ruined that as well.

 

Are they running off passengers? Has ridership on the Silver Star taken a nosedive?

 

https://www.railpassengers.org/site/assets/files/3458/16.pdf

 

The train lost maybe 5-6% in FY2016 but rose back up in FY2017. Less than 10% of SS (35,624 of 373,372) passengers on that train was a sleeper car passenger to begin with (and that is on a train when the sleepers are the cheapest since they are without meals included). On the CL, it is closer to 20% (44,984 of 231,214).

 

It may surprise you but not everyone thinks Amtrak LD trains are restaurants. If they money saved can be used to start some more routes I think this is a worthy sacrifice. There's your jobs back.

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If chefs and a full dining service are eliminated system wide; we will bail and do our vacations as road trips. The decidon to put an airline executive in charge of Amtrak is a bad one. Airlines had the heat and serve food because they are short trips. On an overnight you need a good meal.

Edited by dlagrua

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The fallacy of that statement is that there are some very long airplane flights and they are quite capable of serving good food. As I have said before, they can do it if they want to. At this point, they don't.

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Do the airlines care if the coach passengers eat on all day flights from the East coast to Hawaii. No. Compare this to a Pittsburgh/LGA flight in the 60's when they served a full meal in less than an hour. So from an airline mentality, why would Amtrak provide meal service, except "first class" re-heat and serve.

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The CL has certainly changed for the worse over the years.

 

 

Hey they finally added RORO bike service at all of the stops. So there have been some improvements. Don't know why it took so long for that one. If the CL left Pittsburgh at a decent hour I bet they would get more riders from those riding the GAP.. Arrival in Pittsburgh from the east is not too awful bad but not sure if I would want to ride through the city at that time of night if I didn't live here.

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Do the airlines care if the coach passengers eat on all day flights from the East coast to Hawaii. No. Compare this to a Pittsburgh/LGA flight in the 60's when they served a full meal in less than an hour. So from an airline mentality, why would Amtrak provide meal service, except "first class" re-heat and serve.

The airlines that fly to Hawaii do make food available to Coach Class passengers either complementary or for purchase, Amtrak makes food available for Coach passengers only to purchase. So what is the difference? I think you are barking up the wrong tree on this one. ;)

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I'm getting the sense that when Mr. Anderson asks why something is done in a certain way, the stock answer, "that's the way we do it here." does not fly. In this case, he probably looked at Amtrak long distance food deleivery using a chef and servers, compared it to DL first class meals prepared and served by a flight attendant, and gasped.

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Besides basic nourishment, having a full service dining car on transcontinental trains also in a way provides "entertainment value" for some. Something to break up the tedium of a long journey for many, is the walk to the diner, reading the menu and ordering, and having several courses served to you. Then a stop in the lounge or return to ones space. And repeated several times, with different items ordered each time.

 

So if diner's are removed, and self-serve food counters remain, that will take away a lot of the pleasure of train travel for many....

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A report a few years ago on the cost of food service for Domestic First Class showed the average Dinner cost the airlines over $100 per passenger. The airline catering companies still charge those same rates or even higher. A flight with 16 first class seats pays out over $1600 for meals up front. In Coach meals for purchase, i have not seen a report of the cost verses revenue. I do know that when a full meal was served the airlines paid approximately $35 per passenger. So cutting meals saved each flight $3500 or more depending on the number of passengers. The number of flight attendants is based on safety standards based on the number of passengers so eliminating food service did not save anything in wages. So if Anderson is looking at Amtrak with airline glasses, he sees the Dining Car as unnecessary. Just have the SCA bring the heat and serve meal to each room at meal time. Let the Coach passengers purchase Cafe items from the Lounge, therefore the DC can be eliminated totally.

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Never seen a cost number that high, even with alcohol factored in. Some airlines exceed the mandated minimums on cabin crew on some long haul routes with a higher percentage of first and bc passengers, decreased service might save on labor costs, but would be a huge competitive disadvantage in securing the high yield passengers. One passenger at FC is way more than the FA costs.....

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A report a few years ago on the cost of food service for Domestic First Class showed the average Dinner cost the airlines over $100 per passenger. The airline catering companies still charge those same rates or even higher. A flight with 16 first class seats pays out over $1600 for meals up front. In Coach meals for purchase, i have not seen a report of the cost verses revenue. I do know that when a full meal was served the airlines paid approximately $35 per passenger. So cutting meals saved each flight $3500 or more depending on the number of passengers. The number of flight attendants is based on safety standards based on the number of passengers so eliminating food service did not save anything in wages. So if Anderson is looking at Amtrak with airline glasses, he sees the Dining Car as unnecessary. Just have the SCA bring the heat and serve meal to each room at meal time. Let the Coach passengers purchase Cafe items from the Lounge, therefore the DC can be eliminated totally.

This reeks of some mixture of bad contract negotiation or poor cost control on the part of the airlines.

 

It also ignores the fact that on Amtrak something like 40-50% of the diner meals are sold to coach passengers (with some variability based on capacity, etc.; sleeper pax have to be served, so if there's a constrained mealtime such as dinner out of LA on the Chief then the sleeper share is going to go up by default)...but then again, Amtrak management seems to be continally caught off guard by this given the fact that any time this comes up in a report, there is somehow a tone of surprise at it. Practically speaking, a respectable share of your long-haul coach pax are going to buy one or two meals in the diner if space is available; two or three days on cafe food is simply not a workable proposition for more than a few folks (even if they can't afford a sleeping car).

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Back in the days when meals were not included in Sleeper tickets, I used to get at least one, and occasionally two meals in the Diner. I don't recall ever having had three Diner meals in a day.

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Practically speaking, a respectable share of your long-haul coach pax are going to buy one or two meals in the diner if space is available; two or three days on cafe food is simply not a workable proposition for more than a few folks (even if they can't afford a sleeping car).

 

 

I've done it before. Of course I'm not most people. Then again the alternative is $25 Amtrak steaks. I believe the last time I went to Texas I did buy an Amtrak diner breakfast on the TE.

 

What's the progress of the "at your seat" meals? I remember seeing them on the SWC a few years back. Maybe they are the middle ground between all cafe food and a chef although I'm sure we'll still have CCC's for the most part.

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I've done it before. Of course I'm not most people. Then again the alternative is $25 Amtrak steaks. I believe the last time I went to Texas I did buy an Amtrak diner breakfast on the TE.

.

Well not really... You can have dinner in the diner for a pretty reasonable price. $12.50 for a burger and chips isn't bad and a cup of ice water is free. I would much rather have that than a cafe car "meal."

 

*ive never seen passengers denied a burger at dinner, but with amtrak anything is possible.

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For at your seat meals, the method of delivery becomes an issue. Either you have the passengers themselves go to the food service car and pick up their more elaborate food and bring them to their seats or you have it delivered to their seats.

 

The former arguably is similar to what happens now in the Cafe Car, only that lines may become even longer sicne the prep time for more elaborate stuff would be longer.

 

The latter has additional labor cost, unless the Coach attendants can be enough to provide some kind of a trolley service in the Coach. The latter is quite feasible as has been demonstrated in many other railroads, and in Amtrak Acelas. but typically it does require more than one coach attendant on an average to provide anything resembling satisfactory service. So there is additional cost of labor involved.

 

Airlines typically have something like 6 for 200-250 passengers on light food service flights. More if there is more elaborate food service or premium heavy flights. That would translate to something like 6 per 3 standard Coaches or 4 LD Coaches (single level)

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The Amtrak Coach at your seat dinner meals were served on a couple of the western trains I took in 2017. The Coach Attendant boxed the meal downstairs for each passenger, then carried bags of several boxes back to the coaches. I don't know how payment was handled or how many meals were delivered.

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The at-seat coach service is supposed to be served by the coach attendant. It's literally a boxed meal and a bottle of water. It seems very reasonable that currently staffed coach attendants can handle that.

 

Part of the coach attendants job already is to serve passengers who need special assistance from both the lounge and/ or the diner.

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"BUT HOW MUCH DOES A MEAL ACTUALLY COST THE AIRLINE?

The costs for economy meals average around $25 and business class meals more like $50. First class meals are much harder to classify, but our estimate of $110 is a safe bet for first class on US domestic airlines with foreign airlines being more. Note that these costs are without the costs of the staff serving the food and drinks, or any overhead. (Business Insider@2013)"

 

You can see why the current Amtrak CEO didn't want to serve full tray meals to Coach passengers and why full leaf lettuce was cut out on First Class meals to save several million dollars.

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I bet a lot of that $110 is the free booze, considering how many people seem to drink like a fish each time I have been in First Class. ;)

 

I find it quite hard to believe that the food served on Domestic legs in F in the US costs $110 for just the food, including the full leaf lettuce, which BTW they still do serve. The excerpt is strangely worded since no foregin airline is really allowed to serve a US domestic leg (Cabotage is illegal in the US), and notwithstanding the popular belief in the US, all foreign airlines are not really better than the US airlines international service either.

 

It would be quite revealing to see a breakdown of the alleged cost.

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Is there a link to that citation?

 

And does the citation itself have citations for where they got the data? I find those numbers extremely hard to believe, especially given that current buy-on-board food is very similar to (if not better than) what was provided in the past for free, and you can get a decent bite to eat in economy for around $15 (US domestic), maybe $20 if you add alcohol, and airlines wouldn't be intentionally pricing that stuff at a loss.

 

If the cost of a meal (excluding alcohol) in domestic first class exceeded $10 per person, I'd be shocked.

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