Improving Acela catering?

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ajl1239
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Improving Acela catering?

Post by ajl1239 » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:39 pm

Is Amtrak aware -- has anyone internally discussed this? -- that the catering on Acela is significantly below global standards for "first class." For example, packaged breakfast bars and desserts with a "sell-by" date on top, Dunkin' Donuts (a cheap brand comparable to McDonald's) coffee in a styrofoam cup, omelets that have obviously been made with liquid egg product, and "croissants" that are greasy and like something from Pillsbury. The menu literally compares the experience of dining on Acela to a "fine dining restaurant," but that's just laughable when you actually receive the meal.

Improving the tracks and catenary so that the Acela can be a true "high-speed" train is outside of Amtrak's immediate control, but surely they could fix the catering.

For example, use Illy or Lavazza coffee and offer espresso-based drinks in addition to drop coffee; provide real croissants and pastries from bakeries in DC or NY; serve coffee and hot drinks in ceramic mugs; bring in an actual restaurant chef to rework the food menu and teach Amtrak staff how to prepare/present the food to a "first class" standard.

Amtrak's "first class" prices on Acela are literally the highest in the world, so the poor catering really just adds stands out even more. C'mon, Amtrak.

R36 Combine Coach
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by R36 Combine Coach » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:22 am

DD is a respected coffee brand and has been known for coffee long before McDonalds' went premium. Amtrak served Green Mountain before switching to DD.

As for pastries, there are some noted regional premium brands. Tom Cat Bakery in LIC (Queens) supplies Starbucks, for example. Au bon Pain in Boston is another (should have a convenient commissary somewhere).
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electricron
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by electricron » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:00 am

While I expect Europeans expect better quality served in first class, most Americans do not. If you were to poll Acela riders, I expect you will find far less than 1% are Europeans. Most Americans expect first class services to provide amenities free - i.e. included with the fare - but these same amenities being available at an extra charge for everyone else. Most Americans are not as class conscious as Europeans, and never will be, it is not in our DNA.
While there are better quality coffee sold in speciality stores, most Americans will be happy drinking any coffee, as long as it is hot. Most Americans will probably enjoy fresh hot donuts over french style pastries, hot rolls and biscuits over french style crescents.

So please, stop asking for french style "cold" foods in America. Acela does not ride the rails in France. Amtrak would be far better off if it were to pass out pink slips to all its chefs and hire some experienced quick order cooks from a national chain like Dennys to make its menus - imho. With the quality cuts for steaks being long gone, it would be better servicing roast beef for diner. Texas style bar-b-que beef and Carolina style bar-b-que pork served with cold potato salad and cole slaw would be better choices for diner than the "continential" menu choices on Amtrak's trains today. They could even serve the beef and pork cold, but both would be better served warm.
For lunch, hot dogs and a choice of chips would suffice - hint - look at Amtrak's children menu today. For breakfast, scrambled eggs and American pastries.
Basically, my suggestions is to keep the menu simple with easy to prepare traditional American dished that can be served cold as long as they are fresh. The only things that need to be served hot on an Amtrak train is the coffee and hot chocolate.

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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by mtuandrew » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:27 am

Dunkin’ makes decent coffee and food, but it’s perceived as down-market as compared to Starbucks or especially Au Bon Pain. Fine for Regionals and LD where the clientele is expecting a solid national brand they can rely on, but on Acela, Amtrak is likely losing money even if they keep the same number of customers .

For instance, at brick and mortar stores DD currently charges $1.50 for a large coffee while Starbucks currently charges $3, and the same chocolate croissant that sells for $1.50 at Dunkin’ also costs nearly $3 at Starbucks. Acela also has no espresso drinks as far as I know, which is a big missing profit center for F&B - and were they to start offering espresso and blended drinks, Dunkin’s drinks are honestly trash compared to either ABP or Starbucks.

SouthernRailway
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by SouthernRailway » Sat Jan 12, 2019 10:38 am

My last Acela FC trip cost $50 more than business class. For NY-Boston, I thought that was a good deal. The food was OK but not amazing, but the unlimited wine that was offered and the other benefits offset it.

European trains’ first class doesn’t have amazing food either, from my trips in Thalys and the X2000.

I agree about Dunkin Donuts. Not aware of any airline that serves it to premium class customers. It’s perceived as downmarket.

bretton88
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by bretton88 » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:10 am

Most European high speed trains (ICE, etc) don't include meals with their first class tickets anymore. All you get is a better seat, lounge access, and at seat service to purchase meals. Also most first class passengers here in the USA see the comparable as airline first class food, which Amtrak is on par with or better with its Acela food.

SouthernRailway
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by SouthernRailway » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:25 pm

Here's the food on Thalys:

https://www.thalys.com/de/en/services/o ... ium#dining" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

My trip on the X2000 was almost 20 years ago but I recall it as similar, and fine, but not amazing.

eolesen
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by eolesen » Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:33 pm

Frankly, for the price of Acela Express, I was shocked to find out business class didn't offer soft drinks.

ajl1239
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by ajl1239 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 9:17 pm

I guess because "business class" is actually coach and "first class" is actually business class.

I would go on about how ridiculous it is to have a "high-speed" service without coach seating, but that's not the point of this thread.

jp1822
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by jp1822 » Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:51 pm

You mean why doesn't Amtrak have consistent branding or service levels? Ugh!

ryanov
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by ryanov » Mon Jan 14, 2019 12:54 am

Suggesting that Acela First Class serve hot dogs is boneheaded, and frankly doesn’t sound like it’s coming from anyone who’s buying those tickets.
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by Jeff Smith » Mon Jan 14, 2019 4:13 am

Dunkin’ rules, Starbucks drools. That is all. :P :wink:

Sell k-cups and Nespresso. Natalie Dormer could endorse it.
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electricron
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by electricron » Mon Jan 14, 2019 9:55 am

ryanov wrote:Suggesting that Acela First Class serve hot dogs is boneheaded, and frankly doesn’t sound like it’s coming from anyone who’s buying those tickets.
Acela trains do not come with a diner and galley capable of serving steaks. They are equipped with a bistro car with stand-by tables - that's why the windows are so high in that car. So you should forget about having anything served requiring spoons, fork, and knives - whether they are made of plastic or not. On Acela trains Amtrak should only be serving items to eat that can be controlled fully with your fingers - and that includes all sorts of sandwiches - including hot dogs and slices of pizzas.

Golly, I bet more than half the riders of Acela trains originate in New York City, and what will any tourist know you will find being served on the streets from stand-by vendors - yes oh yes, hot dogs.....

First, second, third, prestige, tourist, steerage; it does not matter what class it is, you can only serve whatever the bistro car is capable of preparing. I still insist that serving basic, well known, traditional American foods will be far better than serving "Continential" foods on all Amtrak trains.

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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by STrRedWolf » Mon Jan 14, 2019 10:08 am

I am of the opinion that if Amtrak is doing meals on LD cars, it should be similar to that of airlines -- prepackaged, heat and serve, made for the trip, specific to the trip.

For trips under eight hours, it's a bit of a stretch to want a steak. Acela/Northeast Regional trains should have the basics (coffee, soft drinks, hot dogs, hamburgers, premade salads and sandwiches, fast food basically)... but if you want more, a Porter on each train should be authorised to contact a catering crew in key locations: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore (which needs to gear up). Food will be made at that station and delivered to the Porter for final delivery.
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bgl
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Re: Improving Acela catering?

Post by bgl » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:05 pm

electricron wrote:
ryanov wrote:Suggesting that Acela First Class serve hot dogs is boneheaded, and frankly doesn’t sound like it’s coming from anyone who’s buying those tickets.
Acela trains do not come with a diner and galley capable of serving steaks. They are equipped with a bistro car with stand-by tables - that's why the windows are so high in that car. So you should forget about having anything served requiring spoons, fork, and knives - whether they are made of plastic or not. On Acela trains Amtrak should only be serving items to eat that can be controlled fully with your fingers - and that includes all sorts of sandwiches - including hot dogs and slices of pizzas.

Golly, I bet more than half the riders of Acela trains originate in New York City, and what will any tourist know you will find being served on the streets from stand-by vendors - yes oh yes, hot dogs.....

First, second, third, prestige, tourist, steerage; it does not matter what class it is, you can only serve whatever the bistro car is capable of preparing. I still insist that serving basic, well known, traditional American foods will be far better than serving "Continential" foods on all Amtrak trains.

First Class on the Acela has seat/table service. I have most certainly been served meals requiring a fork. As for the cafe car - generally I would just bring that back to the business class seat and eat it their on the tray table. Acela is a premium brand catering to business travelers, not tourists/etc (which would be more the regional). For the price of an Acela ticket, especially First Class, I certainly expect something rather decent/up brand.

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