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Possible improvements to LSL/CL Dining

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I think the buffet concept might work fine for breakfast. Probably lunch. Dinner? Depends on how many dinner entrees and sides the buffet could handle. 

 

But it cannot be self-serve. An Amtrak employee (#1) must dish out the food, and another (#2) must take the trays to the table and lift the meal tix so they cannot be used to get more food later. He or she can be the same person who seats pax at the tables and cleans tables after vacated in prep for new diners.

 

To go all self-serve risks running out of food because of greedy (or hangry; https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Hangry ) diners, spillage by pax who haven't mastered walking to the rhythm of a train, sanitary issues, and more.

 

So, we would expect three employees in the dining car, who likely would need to be cross-trained:

#1 who serves the food, replenishes serving trays from the kitchen, keeps it all clean. Assists #2 as needed--especially table clean-up.

#2 who verifies sleeper pax or takes $$$ from coach pax, seats pax at tables like is done in traditional diners, provides a meal pass to go thru the buffet line once,  carries trays to the table, lifts the meal pass once it gets used so it cannot be used again, cleans the tables once vacated. 

#3  who staffs the kitchen, pre-cooking most items so they can be kept warm (or cold) in serving trays that he or she would move to the buffet line which would be able to keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold. #1 may need to assist in replenishment. #3 may need to assist the other two as needed.

IOW, a true Team Effort. I hope union rules would allow that. I'm mostly pro-union, but in many industries they are counterproductive when they fight the idea of cross-training and having multiple responsibilities.

 

I see this buffet concept possibly working on pax loads that are not as large as many western LD trains can be. As always...devil's in the details.

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As stated before by others and myself Amtrak knows how to do this. The Parlour car served 36 high quality lunches and dinners per meal period with ONE employee. Two employees and all the sleepers could easily be served     memorable meals at a low cost to Amtrak and maybe even get some coach passengers in as well.

Why must the wheel be reinvented? It’s obvious Anderson didn’t like his one Parlour car ride,  I don’t even know if he was on it during a meal period but there’s no denying as far as labor cost and customer service it was a win win.

One dedicated employee working 12 hours as bartender, cook, waiter , clean up crew. Granted results varied but that’s the direction we need to be going.

 

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Hopefully the changes being discussed are implemented and the dining experience improves on the LSL and the Capitol Limited (CL).

What Amtrak may be trying to get at is a meal system for first class passengers similar to what you get on overseas flights but with (maybe) more options.  Hence the addition of more convection ovens in the new diners (not sure if the Superliner diners/CCC used for the CL have a number of these or not).  I know it is not a traditional dining car setup but it would be better than the selections currently being offered.  

One issue I see is that it would be hard to serve coach passengers under this setup.  On an international flight, everyone gets a meal regardless of what class you are travelling.  The airline knows the number of passengers on the plane and how many meals to load.  On the LSL, for example, Amtrak will know how many sleeper passengers they would need to feed, but for coach passengers, this would be tough to determine.  Coach passengers eating in the diner has always been a tough issue so I would imagine, given Amtrak's current administration and the focus on keeping costs low, Amtrak would only want to feed first class passengers in the diner in order to have a better handle on the number of meals they would need for each trip.  

If the new system does come to fruition and is successful,  I would think the Cardinal would be the next train to get new diners.  Eliminate the diner-lite car and replace it with a new diner, and open the cafe section of the car with business class seating and use this car as the cafe car.  You are not adding any additional equipment and the use of new diners in the Cardinal route would be a plus given the scenery.

We will see.

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, billl said:

Hopefully the changes being discussed are implemented and the dining experience improves on the LSL and the Capitol Limited (CL).

What Amtrak may be trying to get at is a meal system for first class passengers similar to what you get on overseas flights but with (maybe) more options.  Hence the addition of more convection ovens in the new diners (not sure if the Superliner diners/CCC used for the CL have a number of these or not).  I know it is not a traditional dining car setup but it would be better than the selections currently being offered.  

One issue I see is that it would be hard to serve coach passengers under this setup.  On an international flight, everyone gets a meal regardless of what class you are travelling.  The airline knows the number of passengers on the plane and how many meals to load.  On the LSL, for example, Amtrak will know how many sleeper passengers they would need to feed, but for coach passengers, this would be tough to determine.  Coach passengers eating in the diner has always been a tough issue so I would imagine, given Amtrak's current administration and the focus on keeping costs low, Amtrak would only want to feed first class passengers in the diner in order to have a better handle on the number of meals they would need for each trip.  

If the new system does come to fruition and is successful,  I would think the Cardinal would be the next train to get new diners.  Eliminate the diner-lite car and replace it with a new diner, and open the cafe section of the car with business class seating and use this car as the cafe car.  You are not adding any additional equipment and the use of new diners in the Cardinal route would be a plus given the scenery.

We will see.

Welcome to AU, and in my humble opinion, well said! :)

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On 12/29/2018 at 2:59 PM, Amtrakfflyer said:

As stated before by others and myself Amtrak knows how to do this. The Parlour car served 36 high quality lunches and dinners per meal period with ONE employee. Two employees and all the sleepers could easily be served     memorable meals at a low cost to Amtrak and maybe even get some coach passengers in as well.

Why must the wheel be reinvented? It’s obvious Anderson didn’t like his one Parlour car ride,  I don’t even know if he was on it during a meal period but there’s no denying as far as labor cost and customer service it was a win win.

One dedicated employee working 12 hours as bartender, cook, waiter , clean up crew. Granted results varied but that’s the direction we need to be going.

 

36 lunches and dinners? Not exactly high volume! Do you think one employee could handle this on the CL? Meteor? Zephyr?

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My point was if it’s only going to be for sleeping car pax,  TWO attendants, if they were of the right caliber could pull off a similar service on the less patronized routes.

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FWIW, many of the hotels where I typically stay (Hampton, Holiday Inn Express, etc), they run a breakfast buffet, self serve, with one attendant who preps food and clears tables.  No major worries on portion control there.  Options are typically fairly inexpensive, so it's not like portion control is the biggest issue in the world to worry about.  I've yet to die, or witness other deaths from food contamination, the main issue would be that the space in the dining car is limited so whatever is served would need to be compact.  Maybe use two people, one to prep food and another to clean tables and ensure someone doesn't run back to the coaches with ten pounds of bacon.  

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I would think there are a lot of improvements they could make without adding employees. On my recent trip on the LSL the First Class Lounge attendant (not the official title I know) didn’t do much but sit around most of the time. Not saying they need to be run ragged - but there’s quite a bit of bandwidth available with that position currently, IMO.

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I've said this a few times and here it is one more time.  For those of us that have taken the Cardinal to Chicago, you have dined on a few meals. Those meals are served in a cafe type car that Amtrak calls the Dinerlite. Its half cafe and half diner and depending on the time of the year, it serves sleeper passengers from one or two sleepers.  The meals are brought onboard prepacked, precooked and just reheated by one food service person in a convection oven. On the trips that we took the SCA  pitched in with the serving and clean up duties.  The food was not up to typical full diner standards but it wasn't bad. If the FSA knew how to work the convection oven properly even the breakfast omelets were moist and tasted fresh. If Anderson the penny pincher is so worried about food service costs then the Cardinal model solves the problem.  Maybe that's where food service is headed.

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I've said this a few times and here it is one more time.  For those of us that have taken the Cardinal to Chicago, you have dined on a few meals. Those meals are served in a cafe type car that Amtrak calls the Dinerlite. Its half cafe and half diner and depending on the time of the year, it serves sleeper passengers from one or two sleepers.  The meals are brought onboard prepacked, precooked and just reheated by one food service person in a convection oven. On the trips that we took the SCA  pitched in with the serving and clean up duties.  The food was not up to typical full diner standards but it wasn't bad. If the FSA knew how to work the convection oven properly even the breakfast omelets were moist and tasted fresh. If Anderson the penny pincher is so worried about food service costs then the Cardinal model solves the problem.  Maybe that's where food service is headed.

If the rumored V2 modifications to equip them with bigger convection ovens are true it would seem this may be the direction albeit with just a different type of car.

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36 lunches and dinners? Not exactly high volume! Do you think one employee could handle this on the CL? Meteor? Zephyr?
If it's any sort of meal service where someone has to deliver food to a table multiple times, absolutely not. Especially if they also have to cook the food as well.

I'm guessing you've never waited tables before? I was really pushing my SA to her limit (my second server had to mark off and returned home), and was having her handle 4 tables per seating, that's 16 people at a time. And including getting to the tables, getting drink/salad orders, getting the food orders, and sending them to the kitchen, we are typically taking 30-45 minutes to get all the food orders out to our patrons. Keep in mind, if the first seating is at 5, the next is 5:30 (and we give seatings an hour and 45 minutes to finish, and give us time to get the table reset), so now you've got new patrons coming in while you're still trying to finish up on the first batch of orders.

There is absolutely no way that one person could handle 36 patrons at a time, especially with cooking the food. Not unless literally everything else is self service, which it can't be since one alcoholic drink is currently included in the sleeper lounges.

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Attention Amtrak Suits!!!

Words of Wisdom from the Front Lines  by someone who knows how it is!!!!

Edited by Bob Dylan

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I would think there are a lot of improvements they could make without adding employees. On my recent trip on the LSL the First Class Lounge attendant (not the official title I know) didn’t do much but sit around most of the time. Not saying they need to be run ragged - but there’s quite a bit of bandwidth available with that position currently, IMO.
One of the problems the LSAs have is that many are embarrassed to provide that sort of service (boxed meals) to sleeper passengers, and they lost all motivation because of it.

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A flight attendant delivers that many meals.  I think this is the direction that Amtrak food is heading.  For a one night trip it doesn’t bother me that much.    I wouldn’t choose it, but I can live with it.  

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+1 VTT. This is exactly where Amtrak dining is heading.

I just returned from a RT on the CL. I had always enjoyed my steak and baked potato dinners on previous CL trips. Table cloths, waiter service, drinks, dessert, it was all fine.

This time I was determined to go with the flow and test the "new" "contemporary" dining on its own merits. I didn't expect much. Indeed, the dining car was bare, people sat alone or in the family groups they were traveling with. Boxes came to the tables and people started opening and unwrapping things. In a way it was pretty sad compared to previous experiences of dining in the dining car.

I ordered the one hot entree selection both ways (beef short ribs, polenta, and veggies, with salad and brownie). The verdict--perfectly acceptable airline meal. No, not a cooked to order steak dinner, but a meal that anyone would accept on an airline. Especially with a free beverage of choice -- I chose the half bottle of red wine, a $16 value.

I question doing this without reducing fares, because no question this "new" "contemporary" dining is a tremendous service downgrade. Still, in the 21st century, to go with airline meals (and service) aboard Amtrak is probably understandable. They should, however, up the number of hot entree choices.

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5 minutes ago, Manny T said:

They should, however, up the number of hot entree choices.

Rumor has it they are doing just that.  

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2 hours ago, Triley said:

If it's any sort of meal service where someone has to deliver food to a table multiple times, absolutely not. Especially if they also have to cook the food as well.

I'm guessing you've never waited tables before? I was really pushing my SA to her limit (my second server had to mark off and returned home), and was having her handle 4 tables per seating, that's 16 people at a time. And including getting to the tables, getting drink/salad orders, getting the food orders, and sending them to the kitchen, we are typically taking 30-45 minutes to get all the food orders out to our patrons. Keep in mind, if the first seating is at 5, the next is 5:30 (and we give seatings an hour and 45 minutes to finish, and give us time to get the table reset), so now you've got new patrons coming in while you're still trying to finish up on the first batch of orders.

There is absolutely no way that one person could handle 36 patrons at a time, especially with cooking the food. Not unless literally everything else is self service, which it can't be since one alcoholic drink is currently included in the sleeper lounges.

Actually, I suggested in an earlier post that it should need THREE employees to properly staff a diner/kitchen with a cafeteria scenario.

 

Upon re-reading the post you responded to, I can see how you took that more literally than I intended. My bad. It was actually meant to be a bit sarcastic.

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Actually, I suggested in an earlier post that it should need THREE employees to properly staff a diner/kitchen with a cafeteria scenario.
 
Upon re-reading the post you responded to, I can see how you took that more literally than I intended. My bad. It was actually meant to be a bit sarcastic.
My bad as well then! I should've known you better, based on previous posts!

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19 minutes ago, cocojacoby said:

What happened to the cheesecake?

The menu still says they have it. Something make you think otherwise?

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They still had it on our recent return from Wilmington to DFB but don’t have the pecan anymore.

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19 minutes ago, JRR said:

They still had it on our recent return from Wilmington to DFB but don’t have the pecan anymore.

We're talking about the Salted Caramel Cheesecake on the CL and LSL. :)

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56 minutes ago, cpotisch said:

The menu still says they have it. Something make you think otherwise?

The desserts have changed but the menu has not.  I do not eat cheesecake, but I think they had it when I traveled in December.

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