How are dining car reservations made?

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by iliketrains, Jun 22, 2019.

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  1. Jun 23, 2019 #26

    ehbowen

    ehbowen

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    I'm too young to have ever used an SP "automat" car, but I believe the "hot tray meals" were in a refrigerated vending machine; you inserted change, opened the door, and took the tray to a self-service microwave oven and pushed the button. At least, that's the way it was supposed to work; my understanding from travelers' reports is that the vending machines were in such a constant state of disrepair that the standard procedure was to hand your money to the attendant, who would then open the machine with a key and hand you your item. He expected a tip for doing that, of course...
     
  2. Jun 23, 2019 #27

    PVD

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    The SP car era seems a little long ago for a passenger microwave, but since I never rode in one, I'm just guessing.
     
  3. Jun 23, 2019 #28

    iliketrains

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    I am most definitely going order take-out from the dining car and eat at my coach seat for some of my meals. This is what wanted in the first place but people were saying it wasn't possible. I thought that it should be possible. What does the dining staff or the other staff care if I walked to the diner, ordered some food to-go, and waited in the lounge car until it was ready. That's no skin off their backs. I most certainly would not make a mess at my seat and will properly dispose of my trash. Yes. I will tip whoever hands me the food. I will make certain I order right when serving starts so that I won't be causing staff to work beyond serving time.
     
  4. Jun 23, 2019 #29

    pennyk

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    As stated previously, the dining car does not generally take walkup orders. If you want to eat at your coach seat, you should inform your coach attendant that you want to order a meal. He or she likely will bring you a menu and you will place your order with the attendant.
     
  5. Jun 23, 2019 #30

    iliketrains

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    Ok that sounds good.
     
  6. Jun 24, 2019 #31

    ehbowen

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    You may be correct for 1968, but they were definitely in use by 1970.
     
  7. Jun 24, 2019 #32

    ehbowen

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    Here are some relevant pages from the official Amtrak Service Standards Manual dated March 19th of this year:

    Screenshot_2019-06-23-1.png Screenshot_2019-06-23-2.png Screenshot_2019-06-23-3.png
     
  8. Jun 24, 2019 #33

    crescent-zephyr

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    Be 100% prepared for an attendant to tell you that’s not a part of their job. You can then ask the LSA about at seat meal service and see if they choose to force the issue with your attendant, but if they say no just leave it. Pulling out the service manual isn’t going to make you any friends on that train.
     
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  9. Jun 24, 2019 #34

    ehbowen

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    Pulling out the service manual won't help, but saying, "I was under the clear impression that at-seat service was available to all passengers. I think I'll call Customer Relations and confirm. What's your name and crew base, please?" might just have the desired effect.
     
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  10. Jun 24, 2019 #35

    tricia

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  11. Jun 24, 2019 #36

    tim49424

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    I had an extremely rare experience on the Empire Builder on my latest trip a couple of weeks ago. One of the chefs wanted the experience of taking reservations in the sleepers. It was the first time I’d ever had the opportunity to meet one and I was able to give him, first hand, feedback on the job he was doing.
     
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  12. Jun 24, 2019 #37

    crescent-zephyr

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    Exactly. Ha. I get scolded for not ordering my “1 free drink” correctly and no joke then get scolded for putting the cap back on the LSA’s pen after using it to sign for my “1 free drink.” I don’t think they are going to be overly helpful when someone wants to order their food from their seat.
     
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  13. Jun 24, 2019 #38

    TiBike

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    Based on the manual excerpt, if taken literally, I should be able to board the Zephyr in Martinez and order breakfast at my seat on the way to Sacramento. The Zephyr leaves Emeryville at 9:10 am, the Starlight leaves Seattle at 9:45 am and the Chief leaves L.A. at 6:00 pm – do any of these offer dining car service on departure? I've taken the Zephyr from Emeryville, and don't recall any dining car service, but I can't say I was paying particular attention either.
     
  14. Jun 24, 2019 #39

    Willbridge

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    I collected that menu the hard way, on the train, but I can't remember how they heated the tray meals. I do remember that there were pop-up toasters. I also remember that the vending machines often went out of order, attributed to vibration and voltage variations.

    Like Amtrak, the SP was down to a very thin network by the time they tried this, which meant that any experiment was done on customers who felt they did not have an alternative.
     
  15. Jun 24, 2019 #40

    Rasputin

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    The Chief serves dinner soon after the LA departure (based on personal experience) but does not offer baked potatoes at that meal if I recall correctly. The Zephyr does not serve breakfast on departure from Emeryville (based on an inquiry to the Emeryville station agent). I don't know about the Starlight leaving Seattle but the southbound starlight serves lunch to passengers boarding at Portland (based on personal experience).
     
  16. Jun 24, 2019 #41

    TiBike

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    "Dining Cars are to be open and ready for service when customers board at initial terminals during a scheduled meal period. No exceptions!"

    Not surprising, there's a disconnect between the rules, even rules called out in bold type with an exclamation point, and practice. That's what happens when you combine absolute (in this case) and/or micromanaging (check out the bike section) rules with no supervision or accountability.
     
  17. Jun 24, 2019 #42

    ehbowen

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    Well, the manual does say that the times are subject to adjustments by route. I know that the Sunset Limited does not offer breakfast upon departure from New Orleans, but the Crescent does. More of a bother, in my mind, is when lazy cafe attendants play fast and loose with the rules. On one trip from New Orleans back to Houston I knew that the diner wouldn't be serving breakfast, but the cafe car was supposed to open immediately upon departure and I thought I could buy a breakfast sandwich. Fuggedaboutit. The attendant didn't even begin opening his stock until we were across the bridge and didn't open for business until Lafayette. Oh, and for some reason his downstairs restroom was "out of order" the whole trip...except when he needed to use it.
     
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  18. Jun 24, 2019 #43

    Bob Dylan

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    Pretty common occurence on Amtrak these days!!!:(:mad:
     
  19. Jun 24, 2019 #44

    Devil's Advocate

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    Anybody who has ever worked in the the food service industry knows better than to make a scene in front of the people who would actually serve you. Even if you have very thick skin it doesn't change the fact that your gastrointestinal tract is about a thousand times more sensitive than your epidermis. I have no problem with complaining, but you'd be wise to save those words for the management, none of whom are going to be found on the train itself.
     
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  20. Jun 25, 2019 #45

    iliketrains

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    Yes I can do this but I wouldn’t eat the food they bring me! I would definitely file an official complaint with names and crew base.

    This is why govt employees get a bad reputation. A small number won’t follow the policies and treat people horribly.
     
  21. Jun 25, 2019 #46

    ehbowen

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    I'm afraid that DA is correct; it would not be wise to trust an employee with an attitude that bad. But someone like that should be reported, and I for one would want him to know that I was the one reporting him.

    Fortunately, though, in my experience those bad eggs are outnumbered by those who, while they might be fighting the edge of burnout, really want to do a good job. Please don't let the horror stories we share discourage you from your trip. I have many more pleasant memories of Amtrak than unpleasant ones; it's why I keep coming back. But the zingers do tend to stay in the front of our minds....
     
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  22. Jun 25, 2019 #47

    AmtrakBlue

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    SWC starts serving dinner around Fullerton, I believe. I went to the diner shortly after we pulled out of Fullerton.
     
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  23. Jun 25, 2019 #48

    RSG

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    This is true, and from my limited experience departing from Emeryville, there is a sign in front of the vendor kiosk in the station reminding passengers that the first meal on the Zephyr is lunch and thus suggesting pax buy items for breakfast in the station. (It doesn't help that the station is located in the middle of nowhere, in terms of accessible food & beverage options---contrary to the other Bay Area stations.)
     
  24. Jun 25, 2019 #49

    jiml

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    Does the SWC still make dinner reservations at the portable podium in LAU before departure? This was pre-lounge era and was the only real in-station perq back in the day. It made perfect sense for the departure time and I don't recall any other Amtrak location doing this.
     
  25. Jun 25, 2019 #50

    Rasputin

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    I did not see any podium at LAX before departing LAX on No. 4 (2016 and 2018). As I recall a short time after departing, sleeping car passengers were advised that they could go to the dining car for dinner. There were no reservations taken so it seemed to be first come, first served but I don't recall that anyone was turned away and had to return later.
     

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