• Better food on non-LD trains - is it doable?

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

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  by jp1822
 
IF Amtrak could - especially the LD overnight or LD day trains (state or otherwise) - having pre-orders done on food (at time of ticketing) would be a better option to eliminate spoilage and achieve other efficiencies. But the logistics have never fully worked out.

Even if it was back to bringing the Vermonter lunches onboard, or the Adirondack lunches etc. Both of these trains had vendors that supplied the train with special "regional" based lunches from local vendors along the route. The Empire Builder used to have the half chicken special dinner that was brought onboard at Havre, MT I believe (some station towards the eastern part of Montana). The quality though eventually went downhill.

Amtrak DID make money between what they bought the sandwiches or chicken dinners for (wholesale price so to speak) and what they sold to the passengers (retail price). However, that profit would never offset the fully loaded costs of operating the Diner. For the Empire Builder it largely took pressure OFF the dining car staff as day two meals across Montana (especially dinner) was VERY busy on the staff in peak season. It was tried, but then dropped, and I am sure there were valid reasons for dropping it, even though I never experienced any bad food out of the Vermonter, Adirondack, or Empire Builder meals.

This is DIFFERENT from the Diner having to abrubtly "close" for some random reason while enroute and Amtrak had to bring food onboard for passengers till final destination. That food was typically horrible to inedible.
  by bratkinson
 
It's been said a couple of places on a couple of forums, why can't Amtrak simply put Acela First Class food in place of the 'contemporary dining'.

I took 2 Acela FC round trips in the past couple weeks as a way to very quickly reach AGR status (double TQP days). The new menu as of a couple weeks ago is surprisingly tasty. Even the cheese & crackers with grapes improved with better quality cheeses. They were all an improvement from what they had this spring and even in 2019.

Unfortunately, they were a bit on the skimpy side, if you ask me. Put 50% more in them (not simply more veggies) and I'd consider them to be acceptable for the single level LD trains. But they'd need lunch and dinner to be separate offerings. But then the wiz-kids at Amtrak want to save a buck and make lunch and dinner be the same microwave offerings.

Until they get rid of the contemporary dining garbage on the eastern LD trains, they won't be seeing this passenger on those trains!
  by David Benton
 
It makes sense for teh state supported train sponsors to want local supply of food. the optics are probably way better than the amount of money spent locally , but its still money kept in the state /region.
  by photobug56
 
jp1822 wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 11:17 am IF Amtrak could - especially the LD overnight or LD day trains (state or otherwise) - having pre-orders done on food (at time of ticketing) would be a better option to eliminate spoilage and achieve other efficiencies. But the logistics have never fully worked out.

Even if it was back to bringing the Vermonter lunches onboard, or the Adirondack lunches etc. Both of these trains had vendors that supplied the train with special "regional" based lunches from local vendors along the route. The Empire Builder used to have the half chicken special dinner that was brought onboard at Havre, MT I believe (some station towards the eastern part of Montana). The quality though eventually went downhill.

Amtrak DID make money between what they bought the sandwiches or chicken dinners for (wholesale price so to speak) and what they sold to the passengers (retail price). However, that profit would never offset the fully loaded costs of operating the Diner. For the Empire Builder it largely took pressure OFF the dining car staff as day two meals across Montana (especially dinner) was VERY busy on the staff in peak season. It was tried, but then dropped, and I am sure there were valid reasons for dropping it, even though I never experienced any bad food out of the Vermonter, Adirondack, or Empire Builder meals.

This is DIFFERENT from the Diner having to abrubtly "close" for some random reason while enroute and Amtrak had to bring food onboard for passengers till final destination. That food was typically horrible to inedible.
One of the issues I saw being discussed a few years ago; Amtrak only opening diner cars for very specific meal hours, creating a periodic crunch for the staff and space. A proposal, I think tested successfully, was to keep the dining car always open en route, spreading demand throughout the trip a lot more evenly, generating higher sales and actually making money. Not saying it would work on all routes, of course, but on some it might.
  by photobug56
 
bratkinson wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 7:38 pm It's been said a couple of places on a couple of forums, why can't Amtrak simply put Acela First Class food in place of the 'contemporary dining'.

I took 2 Acela FC round trips in the past couple weeks as a way to very quickly reach AGR status (double TQP days). The new menu as of a couple weeks ago is surprisingly tasty. Even the cheese & crackers with grapes improved with better quality cheeses. They were all an improvement from what they had this spring and even in 2019.

Unfortunately, they were a bit on the skimpy side, if you ask me. Put 50% more in them (not simply more veggies) and I'd consider them to be acceptable for the single level LD trains. But they'd need lunch and dinner to be separate offerings. But then the wiz-kids at Amtrak want to save a buck and make lunch and dinner be the same microwave offerings.

Until they get rid of the contemporary dining garbage on the eastern LD trains, they won't be seeing this passenger on those trains!
I only took Amtrak LD once, about 40 years ago, on one of the Stars in each direction. Dining was a wonderful experience, both in food and company (total strangers). If I'm to take (if the border ever opens) my family to Montreal by train, it would only be if there was good food aboard. For that long a trip a full dining car experience - with dining when we wanted it, not to an arbitrary schedule. I'm guessing it would do wonders for the popularity of such a train.
  by Railjunkie
 
photobug56 wrote: Sun Sep 05, 2021 12:33 am
bratkinson wrote: Sat Sep 04, 2021 7:38 pm It's been said a couple of places on a couple of forums, why can't Amtrak simply put Acela First Class food in place of the 'contemporary dining'.

I took 2 Acela FC round trips in the past couple weeks as a way to very quickly reach AGR status (double TQP days). The new menu as of a couple weeks ago is surprisingly tasty. Even the cheese & crackers with grapes improved with better quality cheeses. They were all an improvement from what they had this spring and even in 2019.

Unfortunately, they were a bit on the skimpy side, if you ask me. Put 50% more in them (not simply more veggies) and I'd consider them to be acceptable for the single level LD trains. But they'd need lunch and dinner to be separate offerings. But then the wiz-kids at Amtrak want to save a buck and make lunch and dinner be the same microwave offerings.

Until they get rid of the contemporary dining garbage on the eastern LD trains, they won't be seeing this passenger on those trains!
I only took Amtrak LD once, about 40 years ago, on one of the Stars in each direction. Dining was a wonderful experience, both in food and company (total strangers). If I'm to take (if the border ever opens) my family to Montreal by train, it would only be if there was good food aboard. For that long a trip a full dining car experience - with dining when we wanted it, not to an arbitrary schedule. I'm guessing it would do wonders for the popularity of such a train.
While you are likely correct in adding a full service dining car to the Adirondack would add to the over all trip, the popularity of the train would be about the same. As someone who has worked the train in uniform in all four seasons I can say a diner in the middle of winter would be a complete waste of money and resources. Ive worked the train with less than 50 folks by ALB and 20 across the boarder.

Summer and fall, leaf season along the lake is one of the best rides Ive ever taken. I could see it working then as passenger counts can exceed 250 to 300 across the boarder. Those counts are normally towards the weekend weekdays counts can be much lower. Some of the bigger attractions in Montreal during the summer months are the city itself the Jazz festival and the F1 Grand Prix.
  by electricron
 
It is now the Adirondack's turn to look at specific data points.
Per https://www.railpassengers.org/site/ass ... 454/40.pdf
0- 99 mi 4.2%
100- 199 mi 26.0%
200- 299 mi 14.7%
300+ mi 55.1%
Passengers 116,203
Average trip 287 miles
Longest segment traveled: 381 miles

This is one of the few non LD trains that sees a majority of its' passengers riding it longer than 300 miles. :wink:
Some math follows:
116,203 / 365 day / 2 trains per day = 159 average passengers per train.
Considering an Amfleet 1 coach capacity is 72 passengers, each train fills slightly more than 2 cars per average day.
There will be days when it needs more cars, and days it needs less cars....

Assuming an average speed of 50 mph, the train should take at least 7 hours to travel the entire route. One attendant at the cafe would have 3 minutes to service every passenger on this train on an average day.
  by photobug56
 
Better food, marketing, doing something to reduce customs clearance time could be a good combination. Having a cross sell with a Montreal car rental agency might also help. On the NYP end, it's tough for anyone like us who would connect via LIRR since LIRR is so unreliable and so frequently late, with few trains (from when I last checked) to get in on time to catch the Amtrak train, though this is out of Amtrak's control.

I'm wondering what might attract more riders outside peak time, besides good food and a comfortable train. But for me, food is the big issue in taking a ride like this.
  by electricron
 
photobug56 wrote: Sun Sep 05, 2021 5:51 pm I'm wondering what might attract more riders outside peak time, besides good food and a comfortable train. But for me, food is the big issue in taking a ride like this.
The big issue with this train and almost all trains branching off the NEC is time and distance.

One Boeing 737 flown by many different airlines can sit as many passengers as one average capacity Adirondack train. There are two Adirondack trains per day, one in each direction. How many New York to Montreal flights are there every day? At least 8 non stop flights each day towards Montreal, probably 16 non stop flights each day in both directions, with the flight scheduled to take 90 minutes. And this is during the pandemic, I have no idea how many more there were pre-pandemic.

Never-the-less, the airlines market share between these two cities has to be at least 8 times more than Amtrak. Non stop flights take everyone aboard the entire way, Amtrak trains on this route just 55% go the entire way. So airlines could actually be up to 16 times higher market share.

Time and distance matter to many more customers than quality of the food. :-D
  by photobug56
 
Not everyone is in a hurry, and these days, even ignoring COVID, I've no desire to fly commercial anymore. At best, it's a lousy painful way to travel. My last time was actually Delta in first class, and it was bloody awful. Trains can be a far nicer way to get somewhere. But how many people even know that Amtrak goes to Montreal from NYP? Until I started getting a NYS Amtrak newsletter, I'd never seen any marketing material or ads for the service.

T&D do matter - sometimes.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
History lesson, volks.

Back when the Adirondack was inaugurated during Summer '74, it was a D&H "turnkey" contract operation. At that time, there was a cadre' of railfans running that outfit from CEO on down - and did they ever have it a railfan fantasy.

The D&H had their Alco PA's assigned and had a CP Skyline Dome that offered prepared on board food. The whole thing could be called "classed". It was "history" as soon as Amtrak had sufficient A-I's and F-40's on the property to assign them to the Adirondack during '76.

Also hard to believe, but Amtrak did offer full service Dining BOS-WAS on a Corridor train named "Merchants Limited". That was always the New Haven's premier GCT-Boston train back when there were clearly different levels of consists and services amongst the trains.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
photobug56 wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:06 am Not everyone is in a hurry, and these days, even ignoring COVID, I've no desire to fly commercial anymore. At best, it's a lousy painful way to travel. My last time was actually Delta in first class, and it was bloody awful.
Mr. Photobug, from your "handle" I gather you are now 65yo and could well be retired; I also gather you are avid in the "foamin'" department.

I've known other "avids" over the years who simply are predetermined to dislike air travel. I agree, especially after my last flight - overseas in Business Class - it's not fun. The masks are a necessary annoyance at this time, and in flight service has been reduced to a level once found in Coach; well, back when the MILW only knew that as the only class of service available (including for the CEO)!!!!

But guess what: while no fun, in six hours between anywhere in the CONUS, "it's over and done".

Finally, after my Jan '20 Auto Train trip leaving SFA the day Kobe Bryant was killed, I decided such was a "that's all folks". Was it a nightmare? no. It was just a "meh" which only saved me 400 miles of driving compared with the 800 for those in the Northeast. And now, that their rate for a journey in that same "window" next Jan will be $1100, it's a "never again".
  by rohr turbo
 
Gilbert B Norman wrote: Mon Sep 06, 2021 9:26 am The D&H had their Alco PA's assigned and had a CP Skyline Dome that offered prepared on board food. The whole thing could be called "classed". It was "history" as soon as Amtrak had sufficient A-I's and F-40's on the property to assign them to the Adirondack during '76.
Actually my beloved turboliners were assigned to the Adirondack after the D&H equipment was retired in 1977. I rode it that summer Rensselaer-Montreal (and probably made use of the service in the bright orange turbocafe.)

https://history.amtrak.com/blogs/blog/c ... ck-service
Last edited by rohr turbo on Mon Sep 06, 2021 1:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by Gilbert B Norman
 
Yes Mr. Rohr, do you and Mr. Johnson ever worship those things :-D :-D
  by rohr turbo
 
Haha; yes Mr. Norman, indeed I do! :-D

@electricron let's take your NY-Montreal analysis and apply it to Albany-Montreal. Zero non-stop flights (even pre-Covid) so you must conclude Amtrak has 100% market share between these two population centers. As it's 8 hours between those cities, we definitely need food service. Will better quality food increase ridership? Couldn't hurt.
Last edited by rohr turbo on Mon Sep 06, 2021 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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