New dining options (flex dining) effective October 1

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by SanDiegan, Jul 13, 2019.

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

  1. Nov 7, 2019 #1326

    pennyk

    pennyk

    pennyk

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    Messages:
    9,461
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Please return the discussion to the topic of flex dining (which breakfast I am eating/drinking at this very minute).
    Thank you.
     
  2. Nov 7, 2019 #1327

    jis

    jis

    jis

    Conductor AU Lifetime Supporter Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2003
    Messages:
    25,078
    Location:
    Space Coast, Florida, Area code 3-2-1
    I have no idea what we’d argue about since I did not say anything contrary to what you said and I don’t disagree with anything you said
     
    jiml likes this.
  3. Nov 7, 2019 #1328

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2009
    Messages:
    7,359
    Location:
    South Florida
    Like AA and USAir...it seems to me that USAir took over AA....
    Sorry we have gone OT...:oops:
     
    jiml likes this.
  4. Nov 7, 2019 #1329

    tim49424

    tim49424

    tim49424

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2010
    Messages:
    1,613
    Location:
    Holland, MI
    Fair enough. My question was a matter of semantics. I’d never do that. The only time I’ve ever wasted food was when I simply couldn’t eat anymore. Doggie bags mostly don’t work in dining situations. 95% of the time, I’ll take dessert back to my room and have a snack later on so I can finish my meal. My mom taught me to do my best to clean my plate before I leave the table! That’s probably why I’m a good 60 pounds overweight! LOL
     
    Bob Dylan likes this.
  5. Nov 7, 2019 #1330

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

    Devil's Advocate

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 24, 2010
    Messages:
    10,889
    Location:
    Америка
    Although said in jest if Amtrak did sign Chick-Fil-A to a food service contract it would almost certainly result in no food service and zero sales fifty odd days out of every year. You could bring in another vendor just for those days, but that would be a bit of a disaster. This was the reason given for excluding CFA from my hometown airport and the decision sent their fans into a frenzy of anger and lawsuits.

    These are public companies participating in a public merger and it's kind of hard to remember something that was never reported in the first place. Bankrupt or not, UA secured funding and approval to pursue and purchase CO, and not the other way around. Operational decisions, like installing CO management at the helm of the combined company doesn't mean CO purchased UA.
     
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2019
    jis likes this.
  6. Nov 8, 2019 #1331

    Thirdrail7

    T

    Thirdrail7

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2014
    Messages:
    4,159
    This is the problem:

    Cutting the foodservice loss is a Congressional mandate. However, if you want to do this by reducing the quality and availability of the food, do it honestly. Since the prices that are being charged are cost-prohibitive, you should at least make the experience memorable.

    When you cut the service from the Star, the prices were lowered. Have they lowered the prices on the sleepers? Have they lowered the prices of coach on the trains that went to contemporary dining?

    Indeed, they did a COMPLETE about-face regarding the Cardinal by failing to assign a new dining car to consist.

    Quality, service, ambience go off the tracks with Amtrak's 'flexible dining"

    Why add to the experience when you can use dining cars as axle count cars out west?

    As a consumer, I cherish value and it is my opinion, the value is being robbed from the experience.
     
  7. Nov 8, 2019 #1332

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954
    I would be very interested to know how much is saved by having these ready made meals being heated by an LSA vs. keeping the existing menu and keeping the chef position and letting everyone else go.
     
    tricia likes this.
  8. Nov 8, 2019 #1333

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 9, 2011
    Messages:
    7,915
    Location:
    KAL
    I wonder that too.

    Back in the days that DA keeps referencing, I was one of the people who didn't care that they were getting rid of things like flowers, newspapers, wine and cheese tastings, shower kits, etc, but only because I felt that those sacrifices were worth it if it meant having more money to keep the actual dining cars operating. It wasn't that I didn't realize it was a slippery slope; rather, I thought it was a bit like canceling Pandora Premium, Spotify, and Amazon Prime so you could afford to continue to pay your cable bill every month. I thought it was more of a plateau than a slope.

    I also hoped that, if they did cut dining service somehow, they would lower sleeper fares like they did with the Star. I figured that was the direction they were heading with the eastern trains. Perhaps it makes me really stupid in the eyes of some on the forum, but I never even considered this possibility because it seemed like the Star was an experiment that would spread to the other trains. It's the weirdest compromise.
     
    Chey, Dakota 400 and crescent-zephyr like this.
  9. Nov 8, 2019 #1334

    PVD

    P

    PVD

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2015
    Messages:
    4,221
    Location:
    NYC/Queens
    Right, keep the person who prepares the meals, but have nobody who can handle money, serve food, or do inventory and accounting. You can't arbitrarily change what particular titles can and can not do.
     
  10. Nov 8, 2019 #1335

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954
    What money? Supposedly you can buy wine and such but I never saw anyone with a drink on my experience on the Meteor. You could always make the system cashless like the airlines do.

    The LSA is also not serving meals... doesn't the chef already plate the meals?

    So that leaves inventory... if you can arbitrarily add "heat all meals" to the LSA position seems you can add "inventory" to a chef position.
     
  11. Nov 8, 2019 #1336

    Dakota 400

    D

    Dakota 400

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2014
    Messages:
    1,437
    Other than your statement "makes me really stupid in the eyes of some on the forum", I agree with your thoughts.
     
    Mystic River Dragon and tricia like this.
  12. Nov 8, 2019 #1337

    pennyk

    pennyk

    pennyk

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    Messages:
    9,461
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    I was just on the Meteor (northbound on 10/28 and southbound yesterday). The SCAs took the orders for the meals, the LSA heated up the meals (for the orders placed in advance) in the convection oven. The meals were either picked up by the passengers at the "service window" entrance to the kitchen, delivered to the passengers' rooms by the SCA, delivered to the passengers' tables by SCAs or the LSA. Many of the passengers were elderly and either the LSA or SCAs delivered the meals. The SCAs also assisted in bussing the tables.
     
    crescent-zephyr likes this.
  13. Nov 8, 2019 #1338

    PVD

    P

    PVD

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2015
    Messages:
    4,221
    Location:
    NYC/Queens
    The current system has had LSA heating meals, they do it in the cafe...Food was not given to passengers by the chef after plating it would be handled by someone else. Until they go cashless, there is a possibility of a cash transaction which a chef can't do.
     
  14. Nov 8, 2019 #1339

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954

    Right... so the chef makes the meals, plates them, and puts them in the window for passengers to pick up or the SCA's to deliver. So that's easy.

    So your saying the possibility of a cash sale makes the entire idea of the chef position remaining impossible?
     
  15. Nov 8, 2019 #1340

    PVD

    P

    PVD

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2015
    Messages:
    4,221
    Location:
    NYC/Queens
    No, what I am saying is that as far as I know, there are certain functions that LSA and other service attendants do that a chef title does not. Changing that would only be possible through collective bargaining. I'm not advocating for or against particular suggestion, I'm just trying to point out that it is a unilateral change, and probably can not occur without a contract change.
     
  16. Nov 8, 2019 #1341

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954
    If a new food service contract can be made, new ovens installed, and LSA's re-trained to work said ovens. I'm pretty sure a chef can learn how to do inventory and you could keep the same basic service.
     
  17. Nov 8, 2019 #1342

    PVD

    P

    PVD

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2015
    Messages:
    4,221
    Location:
    NYC/Queens
    I'm sure they could, but again, I am trying to point out that it is most likely something that is considered a collective bargaining provision, and as such by law, must be handled that way. Not unilaterally.
     
  18. Nov 8, 2019 #1343

    Thirdrail7

    T

    Thirdrail7

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2014
    Messages:
    4,159
    I would imagine the savings adds up. Take a gander at the service plan linked below:

    When you add up the cuts in positions, 16 positions were lost on the Crescent and 14 were lost on the Meteor. If they go through with the cuts on Auto train, 25 positions will be lost.

    That is quite a bit of salary and benefits that are no longer attributed to the food and beverage losses. You also are cutting commissary supplies, spoilage and the length of time it takes to handle the supplies.

    As such, it likely adds up.
     
  19. Nov 8, 2019 #1344

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954
    I meant keeping the chef and eliminating the other positions.

    Do the frozen meals cost less than the basic ingredients that were previously being delivered? Or do they cost more? Questions like that.
     
  20. Nov 8, 2019 #1345

    Thirdrail7

    T

    Thirdrail7

    Conductor AU Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2014
    Messages:
    4,159
    The Chef positions have been eliminated. They no longer exist on these trains. As for frozen food versus fresh food, I'm quite sure it is cheaper to have heat and serve meals.
     
  21. Nov 8, 2019 #1346

    pennyk

    pennyk

    pennyk

    Conductor Staff Member Administator Moderator Gathering Team Member

    Joined:
    Jul 6, 2009
    Messages:
    9,461
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    I know at least one former Silver Meteor chef that is now a coach attendant. I chatted with a coach attendant on the Capitol Limited who told me she used to work in the kitchen on the Capitol Limited.
     
  22. Nov 8, 2019 #1347

    MARC Rider

    M

    MARC Rider

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2011
    Messages:
    1,390
    Location:
    Baltimore. MD
    I had the chance to experience flexible dining on two different trains, where it was implemented in two different ways.

    Outbound on the Capitol Limited, the sleeping car attendant took my dinner order and offered me a seating time. The serving time was extended, with seatings every half hour. This, I found, was to spread out the crowds and minimize waiting for food. When I showed up, the attendant in the cafe section of the cross country cafe diner-lounge had my order ready, quickly heated the entree and gave me the little plastic tray thing that held the entree and the salad and a take-out carton tray that had my free bottle of wine, a roll, and the brownie. He handed those to me, and I found my own seat at a table and ate. Afterward, I bussed my stuff, stacking the plastic tray thing and ditching the rest in the trash.

    For that meal, I got the beef entree, which appeared to be microwaved, and was very hot. Although not gourmet cooking, it was perfectly edible and kept me from being "hangry" for the duration of the trip. In any event, soon after I ate, I had my bed made up, and went to sleep.

    20191028_183324.jpg
    20191028_183329.jpg

    Breakfast was again counter service. I had the breakfast sandwich and a fruit cup, which I believe is an excellent addition to the menu, and I wish the standard dining cars out west would offer it. The breakfast sandwich was microwaved, and was OK, but would be better if prepared in a convection oven.

    The ride home on the Cardinal was different. First, there was only one sleeper, and that wasn't full. The sleeper end of the diner-lite was reserved for sleeping car passengers, and we were able to hang out there pretty much all day. At meal times, it was set up like a diner, with place settings (OK, plastic plate settings). Also, one of the coach attendants assisted the cafe attendant and served as a waiter. He took orders, recorded our room numbers, and served us the meals.

    20191105_190011.jpg
    20191105_191113.jpg
    20191106_081755.jpg

    Because the Cardinal serves a dinner, breakfast, lunch and another dinner, I got to sample all three meat entrees available on the menu. The shrimp and sausage was spicy and, in my opinion, tasty. The chicken fettuccine was a bit bland to my taste but not as bad as some of the reviews I've seen here. The beef was the same as I had on the Capitol. You should note that "the first drink is on us" refers to the entire trip, not each meal. Thus, if you get your free wine or beer at the first dinner, you would have to pay for additional booze for later meals

    The sugar-bomb breakfast clearly needs some work on the part of the menu planners. A quick fix would be to offer plain oatmeal (though I don't know if any of the vendors of instant oatmeal actually make an instant plain unsweetened oatmeal), plain youghurt, and toast or bagel. To add protein, bring back the hard boiled egg.

    A more complete fix would probably be to adopt something similar to airline catering. The fast food model, whether McDonalds or Chick-fil-A, or whatever, doesn't work, because I don't think there's the volume of sales to justify the staffing typical of a fast-food outlet. (look back into the kitchen of a McDonald's and you'll see there are actually a lot of people back there.) There's no reason that prefab food can't work perfectly well, it's just that Amtrak management needs to select a better quality food product and pay a little more effort to presentation. But advocates of decent on-board service also need to explain to skeptical politicians and the public about why decent on-board service standards are an important and even essential aspect of providing passenger rail service. This will take some thought, as other transportation modes have become very successful by diminishing on-board service standards, and we are talking about the taxpayers' money here.
     
    daybeers, jiml, CraigDK and 2 others like this.
  23. Nov 8, 2019 #1348

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    SarahZ

    Conductor

    Joined:
    May 9, 2011
    Messages:
    7,915
    Location:
    KAL
    Quaker has a Low Sugar variety that hovers around 20g carbs per serving. Pairing it with a glass of milk would help. (I actually prepare my oatmeal with milk instead of water.)

    They could also provide apples and/or bananas along with packets of peanut butter. I bring the Jif packets to work and dip my apple slices in them. Sometimes I spread a bit on a banana as I eat it.

    As mentioned, hard-boiled eggs would be a plus. A fruit and cheese platter would be good, too.
     
    crescent-zephyr likes this.
  24. Nov 8, 2019 #1349

    Manny T

    Manny T

    Manny T

    Lead Service Attendant

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2015
    Messages:
    459
    Location:
    Chicago IL
    1. Plain oatmeal
    2. Plain yogurt
    3. Toast
    4. Bagel
    5. Hard boiled egg
    6. Apple
    7. Banana
    8. Peanut butter & jam

    The solution to the breakfast problem. I mean, is this rocket science?
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2019
    Chey, daybeers and tricia like this.
  25. Nov 8, 2019 #1350

    crescent-zephyr

    c

    crescent-zephyr

    Conductor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    1,954
    Yes I know that. I was suggesting the chef position should have not been eliminated but kept instead of the LSA position.

    How are you quite sure? Do you know what Amtrak is paying for the frozen meals vs. the previous food?
     

Share This Page



arrow_white