2019 LSL Food Reviews?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by tommylicious, Apr 29, 2019.

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  1. May 19, 2019 #26

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

    bratkinson

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    A little over a month ago, I 'endured' the free breakfast 'sandwich' on #27. One thin piece of ham, one thin slice of cheese, and a very big, thick bun/croisant, or whatever they called it. I gave away the yogurt as it triggers a gag reflex for me, but ate the couple of grapes included with the meal. In my trips on 48/49 and 29/30 (including one on each in the next 5 weeks), I've walked through the 'diner/lounge' and bought a decent breakfast in the lounge car. I should have done the same on #27 and simply purchased something that wasn't 95% bun. Last year, on #28, I had a very acceptable cold dinner. But according to sources on another online forum, that's gone now as they've switched vendors to 'lowest possible cost', I suspect.

    If it were up to me, all the 'contemporary dining' meals would be available to all passengers for $10-15 and the included $50-60 in sleeper fares would be removed. And if the 'contemporary dining' car, open to all at ala carte prices can't break even, then convert the car to a simple lounge car and convert the existing lounge cars to coaches. Anderson (and retroactively, John Mica), wins.
     
  2. May 19, 2019 #27

    dlagrua

    dlagrua

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    We've been staying away from Amtrak trips to CHI of late due to the loss of the dining car and its menu. On the insistence of my wife, we took an overnight trip this month and then went on to Kansas City. We were served the "contemporary box lunch menu" My wife ordered the Beef Provencal, while I tried the Chicken Penne Alfredo. The generous drink offerings are nice but they were out of the Starbuck cold brew.To be quite honest both dishes were not good. This stuff tastes like cheap microwavable TV dinner type food. The "sleeper lounge" was nearly empty but being social people we were lucky to have our own "old style" table and sit with with Jonsie Stone and Jim Mathews from the RPA. The conversation with these two very nice folks was informative, interesting and enjoyable. It was good to get some info from people close to the action in Washington but much of their information disagrees with what has been said online. On the next leg, the SWC still had the standard diner menu which we rate as pretty good.
    It is hoped that the Eastern trains will get those large convection ovens (that were delivered to Amtrak) installed in the new diners sometime soon but its happening slowly if at all. It appears that the next step is to bring Cardinal pre-prepared reheated meals to the Eastern routes. That won't be great but will certainly be better than the crap that they are now serving
     
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  3. May 19, 2019 #28

    tommylicious

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    Thanks for your posts. It's a shame what Amtrak have done.
     
  4. May 19, 2019 #29

    Devil's Advocate

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    The "Book the Cook" preorder meal service (offered in premium cabins of intercontinental flights with Singapore Airlines) is mainly about improving service standards with a variety of additional options that would be difficult if not impossible to stock en masse unsolicited. Amtrak's Contemporary Dining program is mainly about cutting procurement and labor costs while still maintaining the premium dining experience of a two star motel. Among common carriers Singapore Airlines is about as far from Amtrak culture as you can get. Whereas Amtrak mainly survives on blind nostalgia and budgetary inertia, Singapore Airlines has thrived on high standards and service innovations. Other than being able to go online and select a meal prior to departure I would not expect to see many other similarities between these two carriers.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  5. May 19, 2019 #30

    Just-Thinking-51

    Just-Thinking-51

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    The original plan was to prebook your meals. Of course management got distracted or discover it was hard to do, and gave up? Give a much more variety of foods to eat, it would help. Getting coach passenger back in the dinner even for prebooked meals would help too.

    Unfortunately the flavor of the month has change and we sitting still, in a another pot hole waiting for a new CEO to try something that may or may not work.
     
  6. May 19, 2019 #31

    bretton88

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    I don't think Arrow is capable of doing a meal prebooking system. So that might have been a hurdle.
     
  7. May 19, 2019 #32

    MARC Rider

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    How can you compare Singapore Airlines with Amtrak? Aside from the fact that one is an airline and the other is a passenger railroad company, the airline serves a complete different business purposes than the passenger railroad. While both companies are government-owned and controlled, the politics of Singapore (a small authoritarian one-party city-state) is completely different for the politics of the US Federal government (a multiparty Federal republic on a continental scale with all sorts of regional and other interest groups.) Besides, our national business culture seems to be one of providing their customers with a "minimum viable product" (i.e. junk) at as high a price as the market can bear, and it seems to be working (for the businesses, that is.) Why shouldn't Amtrak do what everybody else is doing? After all, the Market is God.

    I don't think people realize what a political problem hospitality services have become. I my former job, we used to sometimes host meetings and workshops, usually at hotels, as government-owned space was typically unsuitable or unavailable, and, after 9/11, we didn't want to chill public participation by making citizens pass through the security theater we set up to access government buildings. When a hotel rents you a function room, usually some sort of snack service (coffee and pastries in the morning, sodas and cookies in the afternoon) is included in the price. At some point having the government buy food and drink for the riffraff became an issue of "government waste" and we started to ask the hotels not to serve us coffee. Apparently is was considered at higher levels, and the GAO said that it was OK and within the law to do so, whereas the Justice Dept. Said, not it was an improper use of taxpayer money. Some agencies follow GAO, and some follow Justice. We, of course, followed Justice. So, for appearance's sake, we didn't serve people coffee and pastries at the meetings, but we paid just as much for the meeting room as other organizations that did serve those snacks. It didn't save the taxpayers any money (and of course the amount of money involved is insignificant) but it allowed the politicians to virtue-signal that they were "tough on 'government waste.'"

    Amtrak's political dilemma is that if they attempt to provide high end luxury service, the politicians who oppose passenger rail in general will start yapping about taxpayer dollars being "wasted" on luxury land-cruise vacations for wealthy retirees, and the politicians who support passenger rail will have a hard time defending it. As RPA so strongly points out, the rationale for Federal subsidies of long-distance passenger rail is that is provides useful transportation services to far-flung rural communities that don't have other forms of public transportation mobility, and that it provides network effects that improve the bottom-line performance of the corridor services that connect with the long-distance routes. On these long trips, some sort of food service is needed, but fancy fine dining for commoners (even relatively well-to-do commoners) is not something that's an easy sell in our shrill and polarized political marketplace.

    As long as Prime Minister Lee is OK with Singapore Airlines providing top-notch first class service, their management has no further political problems with the Singapore government. So of course, they can offer an exceptional product. Though when people rave about Singapore Airlines service levels, they're usually flying first and business class. Nobody talks about the service in the rear cabin. The photos I saw in the Wkipedia article seem to show that the coach cabins in Singapore Airlines have seating as cramped as those in the coach cabins of, for example, United Airlines. I wonder what it's like to take that 19 hour flight from Newark to Singapore traveling coach. I suspect that a 19 hour trip in the Capitol Limited, even with the crappy dining options is a fa more pleasant experience than a 19 hour trip in any coach airline.

    Oh, and I did some test bookings, a 2-week trip for Newark to Singapore. Coach on most airlines was $1,000 to $1,300, RT coach on Singapore Airlines is $2,600. First class on Singapore Airlines came out at $24,000. There were some one-stop flights on other airlines at $10,000. So a first class seat costs 10 times that of a coach seat. I don't think a first class seat takes up the space of 10 coach seats, which means that the airline has plenty of money to play with in terms of providing first class soft-product services.

    The Amtrak test booking was for Washington to Chicago, a similar ~18 hour trip. Round trip coach was about $250, roomette was $800, and bedroom was $1,454. Am Amtrak roomette costs 4 times the price of a coach seat for a single traveler. I can see that a roomette may well take up the space of 4 coach seats. Thus, much less money to play around with in terms of providing soft-product services, like food service Duh, of course Singapore airlines can provide better service in First class, given the markups they charge.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  8. May 19, 2019 #33

    Dakota 400

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    I have wondered what percentage of those who fly pay the actual prices quoted on the websites--in whatever class booked--on international flights. Booking directly with any airline, and specifically when I priced Singapore Airlines, the price shown was simply outrageous since PCH hasn't knocked on my door nor have my lottery numbers been major winners. There are ways of finding better pricing than directly booking through the airline. When I made my booking for my SIN-SFO flight in Business Class on Singapore Airlines, I did it through my travel agent's membership in a travel consortium. I saved several thousands of dollars and made this flight in that Class of Service affordable for me.

    I have had the same experience in booking international flights on Delta in Business Class and on KLM in Economy Class.
     
  9. May 19, 2019 #34

    Devil's Advocate

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    If Amtrak's primary goal is to remain one of the weakest and most forgotten links in the American travel industry then they absolutely should follow in everybody else's footsteps in order to ensure they retain their present position.

    I have seen no evidence that Amtrak's political opponents will cease blaming them for waste no matter what Amtrak does or does not do. At this point I think Amtrak could park and liquidate their entire dining car fleet tomorrow and they'd still be shamed by the usual assortment of partisan antagonists.

    There are hundreds of trip reports involving Singapore's coach service, the vast majority of which are positive. I've flown in coach on both SQ (25K) and UA (100K) and found the service disparity to be night and day. On Singapore Airlines there were no grouchy attendants snapping at me, no disgusting lavatories to navigate, or broken hardware preventing me from working or relaxing. Drinks and snacks were included and the AVOD selection was much larger than on UA. On SQ if you ask for something relevant to your cabin you will receive it, not with a gravely sigh or lazy stink eye, but with a smile and in a timely fashion. On the other hand UA had CH9 and gasper hardware, so there's that.

    I'm not sure why you're so focused on this one particular flight, especially since BTC is offered on many other routes, but just to be clear there are no standard coach class seats on SQ flights between Newark and Singapore. You seem to be comparing premium economy on a nonstop flight with a top rated carrier to conventional coach class on indirect flights with a second tier carrier.
     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  10. May 20, 2019 #35

    Michigan Mom

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    Starting to get the idea that Amtrak is prepping us all to stop thinking of diners and meals as part of the sleeper car cost equation. When I saw a Subway open up at TOL, couple years ago.... it seemed odd to see the employees setting up the counter at 10:30 pm when the Michigan bus connection arrives. A sub sandwich at that hour? Ah, but the Cap and the LSL start out in Chicago where you can get stuff to take with you. This is the direction we're going for single night overnights out of Chicago. Maybe.
    If that's the idea, I'm fine with anything that helps preserve passenger rail in this messed up country. Just please be up front with me about what is really included in the fare so I can workaround as needed.
     
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