Tom M wrote:I find all the talk about having vendors available along a route, ready to restock food as needed, amusing, naïve, and idealistic. I'm all for full-service food wherever possible. At the very least, it helps to complete the experience and make it a good experience, not just an experience that was tolerable in order to get from point A to point B. But vendors along the route, ready to jump in with whatever might be needed? Not practical. The most formidable problem is the notoriously unpredictable scheduling of LD trains. Except on the NEC, I learned years ago that it is wise to expect any given train to be from 1 to 12 hours behind schedule. Not every train. Not every day. But often enough that a vendor couldn't realistically expect to meet a train at a station at the same time every day. The vendors need a significant amount of predictability. Commissaries at end points, stocking multiple trains on a regular basis, handle that reasonably well. What they can't handle is supplying more food on a train that what should be needed for the meals anticipated according to the schedule. I've been on trains where they've run out of eggs. They've run out of bread. (Think of the breakfast a full diner CAN'T prepare without those two items!) I've been on a LSL when they ran out of food and called ahead to order a bunch of boxed chicken dinners for starving passengers who had missed a meal and were still facing several hours of travel. It wasn't KFC, but an equivalent in a red/white no-name box. I've always wondered if Amtrak actually paid for that, or if the crew took it upon themselves and hoped for reimbursement later. They certainly had grateful passengers. I've travelled the NEC when we were delayed well past an appropriate meal time. The attendant took it upon himself to offer and prepare free airline-type meals from what was available. I was happy I wasn't in coach that day! Can a bad experience be made better by finding creative ways to satisfy customers? Absolutely. The tools have to be available, however.
Excellent points! But you left one logistical issue out. Fast food restaurants usually are ill equipped to handle a very large order. Try this experiment sometime; drive a school bus full of kids on an excursion somewhere and stop to eat along the way. Bring a stop watch and take the time it takes that restaurant to complete the order. Then imagine how long it would take them to complete the order for two bus loads of hungry kids - because all Amtrak trains usually have 100 or more passengers on the train. Then imagine how long it would take to complete the order of four bus loads, because most Amtrak trains usually have more than 200 passengers aboard. Most fast food restaurants would take far more time than you will ever imagine completing that order. Do the experiment, time an unexpected restaurant fulfilling a much larger order.
The few times I have experienced Amtrak ordering chicken meals because the train was very late or equipment in the diner car failed, they ordered take out for just the sleeper car passengers - not for the entire train. Something Amtrak might do once a month or so at most, scattered throughout the country; not something they would do for every train for every passenger every day. Because for those proposing doing this, their goal is to eliminate all food attendants (or whatever you describe them) aboard the trains. Almost like the unfortunate passengers aboard the SS Guppy, "No phone, no lights, no motor cars
Not a single luxury, Like Robinson Crusoe, It's primitive as can be."