If you have ever experienced one of our long-distance trains, even a short distance, you know the train is a small community on wheels. As you pass through the countryside, you spend time catching up with family and friends, and many times, spending a good deal of time meeting new people and exchanging stories. At the heart of our onboard community is our dining car, a town square, where people come to gather and share a meal.
We know how important the dining car experience is to our customers and in order to ensure that it remains a part of your experience with us, we are committing today, to improving the financial accountability of our food and beverage services over the next five years. Our plan will continue and expand on initiatives that have worked, add new elements and evolve as updated information and opportunities lead us to better solutions. As always, customer service is our top priority and we believe the continued changes will help improve upon your experience in our dining cars. You can read more about our plan here.
Many memories are created in our dining cars and we would love to hear about them in the comments section below. Thank you for riding and I hope to see you on the rails sometime soon.
Amtrak CEO and President
Here's a question -- have you asked your OBS employees recently for ideas & suggestions in how to improve food service in the dining cars & cafe cars?
We just completed traveling on three of your LD trains! the South West Chief, the Coast Starlight, and the Empire Builder. The food and service was great. Your employees work long and difficult hours and are very committed to Amtrak. Many have been working for 20-30 years. Our only concern is that all three trains serve the same menu but I am sure this is a cost saving action (the Coast Starlight does serve a small different menu in the parlor car). Please do not lower your food quality or service in order to satisfy the demands of the republicans who want Amtrak to stop serving food on the LD trains. This would end up lowering your revenues and eventually end the LD trains. All of Amtrak's staff and management deserve our respect and support for continuing the battle to keep our trains running!
The dining cars aren't operated efficiently most of the time. Once, on the Empire Builder, and once on the Lake Shore Limited, I saw the dining car crew really move, filling tables as soon as they emptied and generally keeping things flowing as fast as possible. But usually they don't and there's lots of vacant tables.
If the dining car stayed open longer it would be able to serve more people.
It's clear the dining car staff spends way too much time doing manual paperwork and manual inventory management. This needs to stop. Maybe if this is computerized, the staff can spend more time serving customers?
If we could order our food from a menu *before* the train departed, it would be less likely for the diner to run out of the most desired items.
Diner items need to have clear information on what allergens they contain. And there need to be dairy-free options -- this is especially a problem at breakfast.
Not a dining car experience, but I had a ridiculous moment when the LSA in a cafe car had two brands of ginger ale and he would not sell the one I wanted because it was for business-class passengers. To which I ask, why not let business class choose which brand they like to take and sell both to anyone? Inventory practices should not get in the way of selling what passengers want.
Otherwise, I hope the meals and desserts continue to improve in taste and kept decently priced.
Diner food has been consistent for the past few years. We ride sleeper, but when alone I ride coach. I eat in the diner for breakfast and dinner. Prices are a tad high, but not robbery. You DO need to entice more coach riders to try the diner. There is lost revenue there.
As with all of Amtrak, the service inconsistency is a problem. You have the best of the best working there, and some of the worst of the worst at times. On board management, or lack of, shows.
Please do whatever is necessary to keep the diner open and running on all LD trains, cafe/lounge fare is not what will bring customers back time and time again, losing the diner will sound the death knell for LD travel. And losing LD travel by rail will be the beginning of the end for Amtrak, which cannot survive as commuter rail only...the private sector will crush it, if afforded a chance, but the private sector will never even attempt LD rail.
I would recommend two things right off the bat. First, increase the amount of sleeper revenue that gets credited to the diners from sleeper tix sales. Second offer incentives to coach attendants to get pax into the diner. These will help close the gap in revenue/losses. Adding sleeper stock to the EB,CS, and TE will put more butts in seats in the diner, too, and increasing the contribution from sleeper tix to diner closes gap even more. There is NO REASON that more folks cannot be served in the diner! On the TE, several times, the entire diner (CCC) is not even opened,and pax are turned away from the diner! That is unacceptable, and is leaving $$$ on the table.
And on the Capital Limited once my son and I had to ride coach from Chicago to Pittsburgh as the sleepers were sold out. I asked for a reservation and was told that if any space would open it would be at last call. Well last call was made at 10:14 Eastern time and we started to walk to the diner. Less than one minute after last call was made the LSA announced the diner was closed. I walked to the diner and advised the LSA of this and said that we needed to eat and she told us "Too bad, we are closed. Coach passengers are never served before sleeping car passengers." She said that coach passengers should eat in the cafe car. Which we did. That night about 20 coach passengers wanted to eat and were turned away. No reason that diner could not have stayed open.
I have probably eaten in an Amtrak dining car 150 times. The food is consistent and usually good. I love the steaks. The special order vegan meals taste worse than dog food by the way. What is not consistent is the service. Some excellent. Kathy Jackson on the Empire Builder comes to mind. Keisha Shaw who used to work the Capital Limited was awesome. But I have also sat for 90 minutes before my order was taken. I have been on the Texas Eagle and asked 4 times for a coffee refill at breakfast only to be told the server was too busy to handle refills. I have sat waiting on my food as servers worked hard and the LSA sat talking on a cell phone refusing to help the servers.
You need to entice the coach passengers to eat in the diner. So many coach passengers do not even know they can eat in the diner. Put menu's in the seatbacks. Offer at seat service when possible. On the Empire Builder when you did offer at seat service I have seen the coach attendants tell the people to walk to the diner as they did not have time to serve the food. I have seen sleeper attendants refuse to offer in room dining as it was to far to walk from the Portland sleeper on train 27.
Offer a premium coach ticket that includes meals. Offer this ticket at a higher price point of course. But the two things you really need to work on is consistent friendly service. And the second is to increase the number of coach passengers in the dining car.
@JerichoWhiskey Normally the can's of ginger ale given to business class passengers are smaller in size that the standard size sold to passengers. He could not sell you one of those and you are right it was due to Amtrak's inventory control systems. Two things happen when they use those small size cans of soda. The first is the business class passenger feels like they are getting cheated out of a full can of soda. I am a business class passenger and know this full well. Secondly passengers like yourself want a product that is in sight and cannot purchase it. The simple solution here is to offer the business class passenger a standard size can. And then only stock one brand. Simple but someone at Amtrak simply does not get this. Amtrak management should be required to ride the trains undercover as passengers and see what it is really like. Then things would change.
@houstonguy2010 It was months ago, but I do recall them as full-size cans. I would not have tried to buy one if they were the smaller cans.