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Devil's Advocate

Amtrak's New "Fresh Choices" Dining on CL & LSL

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Well, I'm now going to be packing an MRE if I end up on one of these trains, and heating it on the platform in Cumberland, and likely refusing breakfast. I would actually seriously suggest this as a reaction...

 

Of course, none of this excuses the fact that they can't even be arsed to offer the Acela meals out of NYP/WAS and kludge something similar out of Chicago. Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

You will have to wait to Pittsburgh to heat and eat, Cumberland is no longer a fresh air stop.

 

It may be time to revisit the microwave in roomette thread started by MeatPuppet some moons ago.

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Less food choices than what are currently offered. I don't see that as improving the customer experience.

I can't remember the last time when the menu wasn't whittled down to only 1 or 2 choices in the dining car because they were out of everything.

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Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

Don't confuse the issue with facts and logic. It's the end of the world as we know it.

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For a train that arrives into DC at 1PM (IF it's on time), having no lunch and the only breakfast option a combo of bread, sugary yogurt, and fruit seems a bit stark, especially for early risers. I'd hope there'd at least be a breakfast sandwich option.

 

And I sure hope there'll be some way to get a cup of tea. As it is, there's no hot water in the sleepers, only coffee.

Edited by tricia

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So.... where do all the new Viewliner diners wind up then?

ThirdRail7 has already alluded to the possibility that the diners will be used for something like this.

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The Dining car booths aren't exactly the most comfortable, so unless they plan on replacing it with seats similar to the PPC or in the Sightseer Lounge Cars, I really don't understand how this is a smart use of equipment. It also looks quite silly to serve cold meals when the Viewliner Dining cars have a grill and kitchen that takes up 1/2 the space of the car!

 

I haven't seen any mention on what they'll use on the Capital Limited. Maybe the CCC? I have no experience with the CCC, so I'll reserve judgement on that.

 

Now if they did this on the Palmetto (food cart style?) for business class passengers, I would be all for it. Maybe the Carolinian too (not sure how it works with the state supported trains).

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So.... where do all the new Viewliner diners wind up then?

ThirdRail7 has already alluded to the possibility that the diners will be used for something like this.

 

Yeah. private Lounge for Sleeper passengers to hang out in and have food with friends. :)

 

Now if they did this on the Palmetto (food cart style?) for business class passengers, I would be all for it. Maybe the Carolinian too (not sure how it works with the state supported trains).

They won't, unless it reduces the net cost of operation. Come hell or high water they are out to reduce F&B losses.

 

Actually North Carolina could potentially make it happen on the Carolinian. All that they have to do is write a check for the equipment lease and operating cost.

Edited by jis

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Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

 

A starting problem is that, particularly in cold weather, I can easily see preferring mediocre hot food to excellent cold food.

 

 

 

Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

Don't confuse the issue with facts and logic. It's the end of the world as we know it.

 

Sarcasm aside, we're getting godsdamned close to that point as far as I'm concerned (particularly given the "as we know it" part).

Edited by Anderson

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This news is disappointing to me. A step forward? Definitely not in my opinion. One complimentary alcoholic drink does not substitute for the loss of hot meals, chef prepared or microwaved. An amenity kit, as I have experienced on Delta flights, is totally not needed by a traveler who has thought to pack toothpaste, toothbrush, a comb, etc. It has minimal value and adds little to the travel experience.

 

If the new Viewliner diners are able to produce hot meals, and I assume they would be so designed, then I think it is a waste of money to have had them built to such a configuration and not use them for such service. Poor advance planning by Amtrak? Maybe not. Due to the very poor ability of our recent Congresses to pass budget and appropriation bills on time, all Federal agencies, such as our military, have had to work without any clear understanding of what their appropriations will be.

 

If Mr. Anderson is insisting that he is going to follow whatever language is in the statute, as he should do, then it is the fault of the current Congress that has led us to this situation.

 

I am pleased to read that efforts are underway with some Congressmen to get this statute modified.

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I'm definitely disappointed. I have a CL WAS-CHI coming up this late summer. I already dropped them a line. I don't drink soft drinks or alcohol, so that doesn't do anything for me. If the amenity kit is anything like the comfort kit, it seems pretty redundant as all the things in that kit are more or less provided in some capacity to sleeping car passengers already. Even then, I'm afraid that they'll run out of the kits regularly.

 

I'm going to be watching what comes out of this closely starting in June. I paid for my trip back in September expecting the full experience, so understandably I'm a bit ticked off.

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Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

Don't confuse the issue with facts and logic. It's the end of the world as we know it.

 

AMEN!!!

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This really stinks. None of those options for dinner look like dinner to me. I was looking for my steak and shrimp for dinner this summer. :(

 

Breakfast really stinks. You get a better choice at a number of cheaper motels. Luckily the CL pulls into Pittsburgh before breakfast is served.

 

I'd rather have a burger for dinner. Something hot. Does this mean that burgers from the snack car are gone now too?

 

 

Oh well I started using the train recently because I sense its demise. This is just the beginning to the end.

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Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

Indeed. I have had very good meals in the dining car, but I have also had meals that, while claiming to be the chicken entree or the pasta entree or whatever, would have been better described as the salt entree. In that light, the NEC cafe menu, which has a lot of premade cold salads and sandwiches and sounds the most similar to this, would have been far more enjoyable. As with most things, it depends on the execution.

Edited by keelhauled

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This news is disappointing to me. A step forward? Definitely not in my opinion. One complimentary alcoholic drink does not substitute for the loss of hot meals, chef prepared or microwaved. An amenity kit, as I have experienced on Delta flights, is totally not needed by a traveler who has thought to pack toothpaste, toothbrush, a comb, etc. It has minimal value and adds little to the travel experience.

 

If the new Viewliner diners are able to produce hot meals, and I assume they would be so designed, then I think it is a waste of money to have had them built to such a configuration and not use them for such service. Poor advance planning by Amtrak? Maybe not. Due to the very poor ability of our recent Congresses to pass budget and appropriation bills on time, all Federal agencies, such as our military, have had to work without any clear understanding of what their appropriations will be.

 

If Mr. Anderson is insisting that he is going to follow whatever language is in the statute, as he should do, then it is the fault of the current Congress that has led us to this situation.

 

I am pleased to read that efforts are underway with some Congressmen to get this statute modified.

The issue is that Amtrak just got a metric shitload of money from Congress in the Omnibus, and I cannot help but wonder if they (and others) might be in a position to seek damages if the administration tries to "sit on" the money in violation of the relevant legislation (the name escapes me, but in the 1970s there was a curb placed on impoundment).

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Nor does it excuse the fact that I can get better out of Delta on a three-hour flight on a regular basis.

 

Hades take whomever designed this.

No one has tried the food yet. It has the potential to be quite good.

 

Indeed. I have had very good meals in the dining car, but I have also had meals that, while claiming to be the chicken entree or the pasta entree or whatever, would have been better described as the salt entree. In that light, the NEC cafe menu, which has a lot of premade cold salads and sandwiches and sounds the most similar to this, would have been far more enjoyable. As with most things, it depends on the execution.

 

Well, and though the breakfast offering leaves much to be desired on the Regionals, at least there you can get a "proper" hot sandwich. The sandwich options listed seem to be designed without even microwaving as an option.

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I think this is an upgrade. We complain that Amtrak is ignoring the sleepers (their first class passengers), but they have the limiting factor of federal law requiring them to eliminate F&B losses. So Amtrak is getting creative, repurpose the diner as a private lounge, an amenity kit, and unlimited beverages (technically something that wasn't available before), all upgrades. Amtrak food wasn't particularly great before on the diner lite trains, so I doubt the good will actually be worse and they will cost Amtrak a lot less money to serve. The diners will still be on the train, so I suspect hot meals of some form will come back down the line.

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Less food choices than what are currently offered. I don't see that as improving the customer experience.

 

Not necessarily, but probably. The notice simply states that those listed are some of what may be offered:

 

and entrees such as:

  • Lunch & Dinner: Chilled beef tenderloin, Vegan wrap, Chicken Caesar salad, or Turkey club sandwich.
  • Breakfast: Assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit plate.

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I love the idea that there is going to be fresh food available!

 

Oh, wait a minute... fresh choices does not mean a choice of fresh food, it means "different choices".

 

How refreshing!

 

How will this work in the real world? If meals can be prepared before the train leaves, and folk don't want the options that are left, won't that result in a lot of food going to waste, (or very well fed staff?).

 

Ed.

Edited by caravanman

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This really stinks. None of those options for dinner look like dinner to me. I was looking for my steak and shrimp for dinner this summer. :(

 

Breakfast really stinks. You get a better choice at a number of cheaper motels. Luckily the CL pulls into Pittsburgh before breakfast is served.

 

I'd rather have a burger for dinner. Something hot. Does this mean that burgers from the snack car are gone now too?

 

 

Oh well I started using the train recently because I sense its demise. This is just the beginning to the end.

Said nothing about the AmCafe menu, so your hockey pucks, I mean "burgers", are likely safe.

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This really stinks. None of those options for dinner look like dinner to me. I was looking for my steak and shrimp for dinner this summer. :(

 

Breakfast really stinks. You get a better choice at a number of cheaper motels. Luckily the CL pulls into Pittsburgh before breakfast is served.

 

I'd rather have a burger for dinner. Something hot. Does this mean that burgers from the snack car are gone now too?

 

 

Oh well I started using the train recently because I sense its demise. This is just the beginning to the end.

Said nothing about the AmCafe menu, so your hockey pucks, I mean "burgers", are likely safe.

 

 

 

Hey don't dis my hockey pucks. ;) They are pretty darn tasty. I would rather have a hot hockey puck than a cold choice from what I am seeing. The turkey club does not look too bad but I bet the bread won't be toasted. A turkey club has to have warm toasted bread. ;)

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I love the idea that there is going to be fresh food available!

 

Oh, wait a minute... fresh choices does not mean a choice of fresh food, it means "different choices".

 

How refreshing!

 

How will this work in the real world? If meals can be prepared before the train leaves, and folk don't want the options that are left, won't that result in a lot of food going to waste, (or very well fed staff?).

 

Ed.

 

 

Easy. Just hold the left overs over for the next train. :P

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It is possible to serve decent cold meals, but it's difficult. Amtrak hasn't served particularly amazing food in a long time, but this strikes me as just a huge downgrade. We are now at the point that the freaking Cardinal has the best meal service of any Chicago-East train.

And yes, unlimited soft drinks will be nice, but I don't want to drink soda all day, anyway. I really wouldn't be surprised at all if we start seeing dining cars removed from the western trains in the next couple years.

 

And now I wait for a few angry replies that disagree with everything I just said...

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It is possible to serve decent cold meals, but it's difficult. Amtrak hasn't served particularly amazing food in a long time, but this strikes me as just a huge downgrade. We are now at the point that the freaking Cardinal has the best meal service of any Chicago-East train.

And yes, unlimited soft drinks will be nice, but I don't want to drink soda all day, anyway. I really wouldn't be surprised at all if we start seeing dining cars removed from the western trains in the next couple years.

 

And now I wait for a few angry replies that disagree with everything I just said...

The dining cars won't be removed from the western trains. They will be turned into the sleeper lounge ;)

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Just saw this on FB, and I do not know the source, so if something thinks it's "Fake News" feel free to remove. But it goes with this topic, supposedly it's an internal communications FAQ page regarding this topic.

 

Program Overview:
Amtrak will offer contemporary, fresh dining choices for sleeping car customers onboard its Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited trains, starting June 1. On-board meal preparation will be replaced with a small variety of quality, fresh and ready-to-serve boxed meals. The service model for both routes will include an onboard food & beverage staff of two (2) LSAs using two (2) food service cars, one (1) LSA in each car.
In the initial phase of the presentation, which is subject to refinement as we move forward, sleeping car customers can continue to be served in their Bedrooms or Roomettes or use a private area aboard these trains when they choose from the following entrees, as examples:
• Lunch & Dinner: Chilled beef tenderloin, Vegan wrap, Chicken Caesar salad, Turkey club
• Breakfast: Assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit plate
This change will contribute to improved financial performance and more contemporary service delivery on these overnight routes between the East Coast and Chicago at an estimated annual savings of $3.4M across both routes, some of which will be reinvested in the product.
Program Details:
During the summer on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited,
• The Capitol Limited will operate with 2 coach cars, 1 baggage coach, 2 sleepers, 1 sleeper lounge, 1 sightseer café/lounge (Superliner I or II), 1 transition dorm, & 1 baggage car.
• The Lake Shore Limited will operate with 6 coaches, 2 baggage cars, 3 sleepers, 1 sleeper lounge (new CAF car) and 1 café/lounge car (Amfleet I split club). The café/lounge includes 18 business class seats and the standard Amfleet Café module and 24 booth seats.
• After boarding, sleeper attendants will ask passengers to select a preferred time for in room dining. Reservations will continue to be available in frequent intervals consistent with today’s standards
• Sleeper car passengers who do not wish to dine in their room will have the option to dine at available seating in the sleeper lounge. Sleeper passengers will have exclusive access to tables in sleeper lounge. Seating will be on a first come basis and there will be no at-table dining service.
• Sleeper and business class customers will also be offered unlimited soft beverages, 1 complimentary serving of beer, wine or a mixed-drink and an amenity kit.
• Meal service continues to be included as part of the sleeping car accommodation charge.
• These meals may be available for purchase by business and coach customers on a limited basis.
• The existing café menu will continue to be available to all passengers through the café/lounge.
Breakout of service by class is below.
Sleeper Class​
• Food: Fresh ready-to-serve and pre-packaged meals
• Beverages: 1 Alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft beverage
• Other amenities: 1 Complimentary amenity kit
Business Class (Lake Shore Limited)
• Food: A la carte purchases from Café/Lounge menu
• Beverages: 1 Alcoholic beverage and unlimited soft beverage
• Other amenities: 1 Complimentary amenity kit
Coach Class
• Food: A la carte purchases from Café/Lounge menu
• Beverages: A la carte purchases from Café/Lounge menu
Note: Pre-packaged meals may be available for purchase by business and coach customers on a limited basis.
Q:​What is the time frame of the program?
The first phase of the program will begin June 1.
Q: ​Will meal service hours remain the same?
​Yes, meal service will continue to be provided during normal hours.
Meal Service & Reservation Hours
Breakfast 6:30 am – 10 am
Lunch 11:30 am – 3 pm
Dinner 5 pm – 9:30 pm
• The attendant in the Sleeping Car Lounge will be on duty from 6:30 am to 10pm with the exception of allotted breaks.
• The Sleeping car Lounge will be available for passenger use for the duration of the journey.
Q: ​What are the anticipated benefits of the program?
The revamped meal offerings will be a more sustainable approach for F&B meal items producing less waste and providing a more contemporary food service model and product (with in room service) for our premium passengers. In future phases, our customers will be able to pre-order/pre-select meal options prior to departure.
The anticipated cost savings are an annualized $3 million reduction in operating costs on these two routes. Some of which, will be reinvested in the product.
Q: ​If passengers currently holding reservations on the Capitol Limited or Lake Shore Limited wish to postpone or cancel, will additional fees be imposed?
Passengers wishing to modify or cancel existing reservations will be subject to standard
Amtrak cancellation or change fees.
Q:Are fares being changed on these trains to account for the lower food service costs?
Ticket prices / fare structure will remain the same.
Q: ​If a passenger chooses to receive in room service but then s/he decides later s/he needs an additional item, will s/he need to walk all the way to the sleeper lounge for service?
Sleeper attendants continue to be on call to support customer requests (within reason, of course!) With safety as our first priority, our objective is to ensure customer onboard experience is enjoyable and worth repeating.
Each ready-to-serve meal comes completely packaged with necessary condiments, napkins and cutlery. If a customer finds something missing from their package, needs another beverage or needs assistance moving from their bedroom or roomette to another car on the train – the sleeper car attendant or other employees can provide assistance.
Q:Have the impacted employees been notified?
Crew base management has been notified and will be reviewing the changes with the crews as we roll out the program. Communications will be ongoing.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bolding, underlining, and italics by me.
Edited by rrdude

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You know? If they include food items that one sees served in airline business class and first class, this may not be so horrible for Sleeper folks. Certainly will never be as good as with a full kitchen etc. etc. Unfortunately, for now they seem to be limiting it to non-hot food. I wonder if one could ask for a Burger or Pizza from the Cafe instead. I know I know.... I am a low life. :P

 

All in all it is not going to be good for Coach passengers if only very few of the meals are available for sale.

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