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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » ‘Contemporary and Fresh dining’ on the CL and LSL. (Page 1)

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Author Topic: ‘Contemporary and Fresh dining’ on the CL and LSL.
palmland
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Guess this is not surprising from our Ex Delta CEO for Amtrak. From Trains newswire:

“In a press release issued Thursday, Amtrak announced “contemporary and fresh dining choices” for sleeping-car passengers on the Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited and Chicago-New York/Boston Lake Shore Limited — cold meals delivered to their roomettes or bedrooms, or eaten in a private café or lounge car. The new service, replacing traditional dining-car service, begins June 1.

The release cites lunch and dinner choices such as “chilled beef tenderloin, vegan wrap, chicken Caesar salad, or turkey club sandwich,” and breakfast options including “assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit.”

It does include drinks including glass of wine, beer, or mixed drink. Should help forgetting the cold food. Here is the link:

Amtrak dining on CL and LSL

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Gilbert B Norman
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From Crowne Plaza Ravinia Atlanta--

Here is a Railway Age column regarding this "enhancement" of cold meal plates:

https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/want-airline-food-take-amtrak/

Fair Use:

  • Ex-Florida Congressman John Luigi Mica, a foodie who spent a considerable amount of time when he was Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee questioning Amtrak’s food service costs, must be very pleased with Amtrak’s announcement that it’s getting rid of dining cars on two long-distance trains.

    Yes, you heard me right, and I believe it’s part of a plan to dismantle the National Network—shutting down most, if not all, long-distance trains, to focus on the Northeast Corridor, Midwest (Chicago) and California short- and medium-distance services, and state-supported trains. More on that later.

    This morning (April 19), I received a press release with the following headline:

    New and Contemporary Dining Soon on Two Amtrak Routes. Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited sleeping car customers to be offered fresh choices for meals this summer.

    Right away, I smelled corporate-speak rotten fish. Read on..

I suppose the rest will not be far behind - including Auto-Train.

I just may have made my last overnight Amtrak trip.

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yukon11
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The US DOT, back in 2005, did a analysis of how to reduce costs and amenities on Amtrak trains.
From the report:

"There are a number of options that should be explored that may provide food service for passengers at no net cost to Amtrak. Options for reducing costs for food service through initiatives or prototype test projects on several long-distance routes could include raising
food prices, outsourcing, having passengers obtain meals in stations during regular
stops, distributing boxed meals that have been prepared off the train, selling packaged food from carts on the trains, or redesigning the lounge cars so that they generate sufficient revenues to offset costs".

*********************
Why couldn't Amtrak consider some of the above before deciding upon the cold box Purina beef on toast fare? The new box meal choices sound a lot like the fodder handed out on Amtrak #28, the last time I took it. I do think it's the opening shot for dismantling the LD trains, and they are progressing famously.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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From Crowne Plaza Ravinia Atlanta

Richard, you use the phrase" dismantling the LD trains" as in discontinuing the trains or merely stripping them of amenities.

I think the latter; what counts to the "Benefactor Critters" is that they run.

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yukon11
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I'm sure, Mr. Norman, that our esteemed politicians will not allow discontinuing the LD train through their state. I guess the LD train will always be there, like death and taxes. However, how long will passengers tolerate the situation? I can't imagine traveling from Chicago to the west coast, on the Builder or Zephyr, with the kind of meal service that they are going to get on the Capitol Ltd. and the Lake Shore Ltd.

Richard

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palmland
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Trying to be optimistic, there are a few things I like about these changes including a lounge dedicated to sleeper passengers, particularly the SSL that will be used on the CL. It will be nice to have the complimentary glass of wine there and the dinner available without the sometimes officious LSA and incessant announcements and the mediocre food. Apparently Amtrak plans in the future to offer meal pre-selection, according to one report:

“The revamped meal offerings will be a more sustainable approach for F&B meal items producing less waste and providing a more contemporary food service model and product (with in room service) for our premium passengers. In future phases, our customers will be able to pre-order/pre-select meal options prior to departure. “

If that includes a hot meal dinner selection, I can live with these changes. The days of fine dining in a nicely appointed dining car with professional service are gone and have been for many years.

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MargaretSPfan
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Questio:
Where is the Congressional outcry against the tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies of all sorts that the aviation industry and the highway builders get? Crickets.....

All this talk by Congressmen and women (and their supporters) about the deficit poor Amtrak runs in its food budget is truly making a mountain out of a molehill. Yes, I know, PRIIA requires Amtrak to stop running a deficit in its food budget, but that part of PRIIA is not at all a good business decision, as it removed one of the main reasons people ride trains -- to have a nice meal in the diner while traveling through interesting and often beautiful places.

Amtrak should try to increase its revenues, instead of only cutting expenses. One good way to increase dining car revenues would be for Amtrak to do what some pointed out elsewhere: keep the dining car -- the most expensive car in a passenger train -- open 24 hours a day, instead of the ~ 9 hours a day it is open on all trains. This worked very well not so long ago, and is a win-win for everyone. The passengers liked it, the crews liked it, and the revenues from the diners were up a lot. People could eat when they were hungry. The practical details can be easily woRKed out.

In general, Amtrak needs to again advertise its its services and needs to use the best creativity ad positive ideas to grow its business, and to turn its corporate back on the idea that the best way to run Amtrak is to cut as many of its expenses as possible.

Mr. Anderson:
Please -- Be positive. Grow your business, and please seek out people with good ideas who can improve passengers' on-board travel experiences. Many of us have some pretty good ideas that may well help to improve Amtrak's bottom line.

Thank you.

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DonNadeau
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If Amtrak continues with this, why not as least at originating stations load airline-type meals that could be heated?

That's what Mr. Andersen provided to his Delta first-class passengers.

For example, northbound on the Coast Starlight passengers boarding between LAX and SBA would receive a hot lunch.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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palmland
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Don, let's hope Anderson backs off his ill conceived idea to serve only cold food. I believe I read that he hired the guy that ran Delta's in flight services. He should be made to ride the Texas Eagle end to end eating only cold food from the cafe.
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yukon11
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The RPA (Rail Passengers Association) addressed their concern about "contemporary and fresh dining" during their spring meeting. From their discussion:

"We understand that Amtrak is under a Congressional mandate to at least break even on food and beverage costs but serving cold meals on an overnight train service has been tried before and it resulted in lower ridership in premium services and was reflected in lower revenue,” said Rail Passengers Chairman Peter LeCody. “Even most airline passengers get a hot meal for dinner on overnight flights. Amtrak management needs to rethink their strategy."

Another thing addressed:

"Amtrak’s idea to reduce service on certain national network overnight trains to less than daily service by expanding shorter segments with more than one round trip daily"

********************************
Does that mean Amtrak is considering reducing some of the LD trains, such as the Builder, Zephyr, SWC, & Starlight to less than daily?

Richard

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DonNadeau
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Fred Frailey has posted his view of this situation on Trains, with FREE access to non subscribers.

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2018/04/23/meals-on-wheels-oh-my.aspx

I must say that I agree with most of his points.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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MargaretSPfan
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I would politely say to Mr. Anderson that if he really wants to appeal to millennials, he has to see to it that good food is provided on all Amtrak trains. Millennials tend to be "foodies", and they will not patronize restaurants that offer poor-quality food.

And I would think that millennials will not be satisfied with having only a cold sandwich for dinner. That will not fly (pardon the pun!).

As I said in my post above when I edited it, Amtrak really needs to grow its business, and needs to stop cutting services and amenities. There are a lot of good ideas that a number of us have that could help Amtrak grow its business, which it really needs to do.

And of course, Amtrak must offer food that is always of good quality and well-prepared, even if it is just microwaved, and all of the on-board staff and crew need to be pleasant and professional all the time.

There is no reason to ever serve anyone poor-quality food that is poorly prepared. Amtrak must offer consistently good service, and this includes the fod they serve.

Anderson should go to Congress and ask them to remove the PRRIA provision that requires Amtrak to break even on its food service, and we should contact our Congressional representatives and senators and asd for that provision to be removed.

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yukon11
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A synopsis of an April 19th meeting, with Mr. Anderson and RailPAC.

https://is.gd/ScEFAr


Richard

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DonNadeau
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Oh, wow. That was depressing.

Each state regardless of population has two senators. Each state regardless of population has at least two representatives.

That in my opinion is the hope we have for continued long-distance service.

The solely short-distance corridor plan, if successful, will end service to most states and that will not go over easily.

--------------------
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palmland
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The report did say this: “ I noted that he did not specifically say that the long-distance trains would go, only that corridors are the future.”

So, I’m not ready to say the end is near for LD trains. Will it look different, I hope so. Remember the often quoted “only through change can things remain the same.” Nothing wrong with developing new corridor services, even if it means redesigning some of the more marginal trains like the Sunset/ Texas Eagle and Cardinal and perhaps the three trains in the Silver service. The other LD trains will soldier on until the Superliner fleet falls apart.

Similarly, the proposed dining service is lacking one thing to make it acceptable if not an improvement: a hot meal selection. If Anderson can do it for Delta first class, I’ll bet we’ll see it as the new service gets tweaked.

What I do hope, but am not optimistic, is that a few trains will actually see upgraded service wtith sleeper lounges as well as diner with full menu service such as the Starlight, CZ, Capitol, and Meteor. Charge a premium if you must, but the PR value as well as increased revenue would benefit both passengers and Amtrak.

Guess this make me hopelessly optimistic or naive, but I really don’t think ‘the end is near’.

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DonNadeau
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Thank you. That all could happen.

To me the final structure may likely depend to large degree on the politics of it. And, hopefully the longer Mr. Anderson is there the more he will appreciate what perks bring revenue. These days airlines compete for business (read higher paying) customers most aggressively with perks.

In my opinion, if for example the two senators from West Virginia want the Cardinal badly they will likely keep it.

--------------------
@DonNadeau

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yukon11
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Mr. Palmland and Don, I appreciate your optimism and I sure hope your long term outlook will prove to have merit.

What bothers me, concerning the RailPAC meeting, is Mr. Anderson's demeanor which was described as "angry and agitated". Also his (PRIIA) comment showing his unrelenting determination to cut meal cost ("that's what the law says").

With regard to Mr. Nadeau's post of the Fred Frailey column, I'm not sure I am interpreting this correctly, but Frailey seeems to suggest the cold meals on Amtrak #28, the eastbound Portland leg on the Builder, have passenger acceptability. All I can say, having tasted the cold plate meal, I hope Mr. Frailey gets a chance to sample.

However, I remain guardedly optimistic if political pressure can arise from Amtrak passengers and politicians.

Richard

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palmland
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Richard, we haven’t been on the EB eastbound from Portland so we haven’t sampled the dinner. But, on our westbound trip we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast. It seemed much better than Amtrak’s normal continental breakfast.

But then it may be because the SCA brought it to our room (he offered to do it, we didn’t ask). It was very pleasant relaxing with our bed still down and enjoying our morning coffee and breakfast as we followed the Columbia river, a cruise ship, and a UP train on the other side.

But, I agree, a cold meal just doesn’t work for dinner. Fortunately, if you’re taking the LSL or CONO from Chicago, dinner before boarding the train is a much better alternative. I suspect we’ll resort to getting some very good ‘to go’ food along with a bottle of wine before we board. We did that once for the SWC out of LA because of its abbreviated dinner and enjoyed it very much.

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DonNadeau
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Fred hasn't failed us.

"My other suggestion is to adopt a dining car menu like Amtrak offers its first-class customers on Acela—precooked and prepackaged food that is heated and served on board. These meals taste at least as good as what comes from today’s dining cars and usually better."

Especially if as Fred advises Amtrak goes to a cashless payment system the mode of service he suggests should permit the required savings. Other than a basic hygiene course you don't need a cooking school degree to heat & serve airline-type meals or even much space.

I too was disturbed by the following:

"What bothers me, concerning the RailPAC meeting, is Mr. Anderson's demeanor which was described as "angry and agitated". Also his (PRIIA) comment showing his unrelenting determination to cut meal cost ("that's what the law says")."

That anger if accurate especially bothered me.

I hope that his mind will be open to alternatives to reaching "what the law says." such as providing hot food in some situations.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Elsewhere, i.e. another site, they're talking about "man the barricades" by suggesting that the OBS staff solicit passengers to sign petitions to preserve existing full service Dining on Capitol and Lake Shore Limiteds.

THAT is "going over the top".

We are talking sixty employees, if even that who could be adversely affected. Those employees will exercise seniority displacing "younger" employees. Someone may get furloughed, but I doubt if for too long. The "hiring hall" might not have much activity - for a while.

So I doubt if there will be too many takers, but activism has never "exactly been" part of my DNA.

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yukon11
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Fred Frailey has an interesting post on the current TRAINS website, titled "My Big, Bad new Amtrak". In an attempt to economize (ala Mr. Anderson, I presume) he suggests (among several other things) the following:

*Eliminate the Lake Shore Ltd., the Silver Star, & Cardinal.

*Run the Pennsylvanian from New York to Pittsburg. Have it a full service train with a dining car and at least 3 sleeper cars.

*Run the Capitol Ltd. from Washington, DC to Pittsburg. Also a full service train with dining car and at least 3 sleepers.

*Combine both of the 2, above, to form one train between Pittsburg & Chicago. Use equipment from the 3 discontinued trains (LSL, Star, & Cardinal).

I would provide a link to Mr. Frailey's article, but as it is from the TRAINS website I don't know how appropriate it would be.

I also can't form an opinion of Mr. Frailey's suggestions as I'm not all that familiar with Amtrak east of the Mississippi.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Links are fine, Richard, for all you have done is tell a reader where to find something.

Now the rightsholder of the material may choose to restrict access to such, and that is the holder's prerogative.

But in this case, the above is a non-issue, as the Fred Frailey blog is open content:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/default.aspx

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yukon11
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OK, thanks for the information, Mr. Norman, and thanks for the link.

He doesn't say anything about changes to the Builder, Zephyr, or SW Chief.

I don't agree with him on establishing a LA to Las Vegas train. The flight is only 1hr-15 min. out of LA. I would rather see a Salt Lake City to Portland connection.

Richard

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mgt
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Since we first became aware of Amtrak after my retirement in 2000 we have enjoyed many long distance trips, north/south and east/west and the dining car has been an integral part of our enjoyment. No, it is not haute-cuisine and no, it does not compare with meals enjoyed on the East Coast of British Rail or the Queen of Scots Pullman as it meandered on its circuitous route from Leeds to Edinburgh via Harrogate. But breakfast and dinner have always been enjoyable, one or two memorable, particularly a perfectly cooked simple steak on the westbound summer Empire Builder. We must have been lucky with crew because we have never encountered rude or surly dining car staff; one or two indifferent sleeper attendants but nothing worse.
The idea of a cold meal does not thrill me, but it would probably be acceptable if a separate dining area were provided. Picnicking in my bedroom does not appeal. It seems to me as if this idea has been floated, perhaps with a view to gauging public/press reaction?
Also throughout the time we have used Amtrak meals have been constantly under revision and various "improvements" mooted. Dining cars have never made a profit but if you are going to spend two days on a train the food and the environment in which it is served is of some importance. I have read that the Southern Pacific in the pre-Amtrak did its utmost to make passengers feel as uncomfortable and unwanted as possible to deter them and thus justify closing down the service but several of the above comments imply that the future of most LD services is politically assured for the foreseeable future. If that is the case then passengers are surely entitled to decent catering.
We have certainly enjoyed the food on Acela but would providing that type of food operation for all or most LD trains be any more financially viable? Would it work logistically? Most of the dining cars we have used have run at full capacity for all meals during the time the cars were open.
Next year we hope to use the Texas Eagle from Chicago to Austin. What are the chances of full dining car service still being available?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Fresh Choices...we are committed
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yukon11
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McDonalds never looked so good.

Richard

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palmland
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You are so right, Richard.

Why don’t they apply the cost of a free alcoholic drink to offering at least one hot entree. I’d much rather BYOL anyway.

Heck, just charge for the ‘deluxe’ breakfast - bacon and eggs!

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Gilbert B Norman
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Lest one wonder (source: wiki)
  • Charcuterie (/ʃɑːrˌkuːtəˈriː/ or /ʃɑːrˈkuːtəri/; northern French: [ʃaʁkytˈʁi] or southern French: [ʃaʁkytəˈʁi], from chair "meat" and cuit "cooked") is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.
Oh and finally,
mailto:VP.CustomerExperience@amtrak.com will surely be flooded; positive or negative "those who ride, can decide".

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mgt
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The Breakfast option is very disappointing; nothing warm and a bizarre mixture of health foods with some very high calorie options. My wife would enjoy the former. The so-called entrees are probably acceptable, probably healthier than many of the previous items, depending on the number of calories in the dressings. Much will also depend on the temperature at which the meals are served. Most service stations and many sandwich bars serve their ready made products much too cold. (Amtrak's probable answer: Passengers will be able to consume their meals at a time convenient to them). Will cutlery be metal or those abominable plastic things? Will there be adequate "crockery" or are passengers expected to eat from the containers? As always, much is a matter of taste, but it is the lack of choice to which I object most.
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yukon11
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Why couldn't Amtrak, on all LD trains, offer the meals they serve for first class Acela passengers? The meals are precooked and prepackaged, then heated and served on board. Many feel the meals are from adequate to good.

https://is.gd/676Tob

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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There's something happening....

The "Fresh and Contemporary" menu has been withdrawn from the website; a generic "contemporary" news release has been posted. No specific mention of menu items - nor "Caliente o Frio".

Somehow I think One Mass is in crisis mode (not that it is ever otherwise) at the moment.

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MargaretSPfan
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This may *only* mean that Amtrak has learned not to publicize that bad idea (and other bad ideas, as well) *not* that they are going to drop any or all bad ideas.

I hope I am wrong about this. But I am pretty sure I am not.

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sojourner
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The worst thing about this is that there is no dining car--right?
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George Harris
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Try the snack bar car like used on the California service. I am no fan of California but I consider their train service good and one of the best things they do. However, DO NOT go to the non-reclineable and and non rotatable seating they use.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Here they are ten days out from "launch" and they evidently have scrapped one menu, and thus far have not publicized a replacement.

At this point, "betcha no change" on June 1. They might publicize some tag name like "Amtrak Fresh" tween then and now, but it will be like United Airlines and their Polaris - big rollout followed by, save twelve aircraft, nothing.

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Gilbert B Norman
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"Dinner in the Diner, nothing could be finer"

http://facebook.com/esparail/posts/1823865014326639

Looks like the Antipasto; fka "Charcuterie".

Reports elsewhere that V-Chows have been added to each 448-449 set.

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mgt
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That looks very basic. Also a further contribution to landfill and the amount of plastic sloshing around the environment.
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Gilbert B Norman
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From the latest Menu, looks like the "VP-Customer Experience" has moved on. Bigger and better? Who knows.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Look what TRAINS Newswire reports today.

Fair Use:
  • Amtrak plans to add “a hot meal option” to dining service on the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited, and says food-service changes on the two trains — which saw full dining cars give way to pre-prepared cold meals as of June 1 — offer passengers more dining choices.

    These points come from a statement to Trains News Wire by Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari, who wrote, “We are undertaking changes on the dining service to provide higher quality food with a modern service pattern that allows people to order what they want and have it provided when they want. People who want to dine in a communal way can keep that. People who want privacy or to work on their laptops while they’re dining, can dine in that way......“A hot meal option will be coming at future date as we are gathering feedback from our customers to understand preferences"
Now what remains is how "Kleiner Fuherer" Magliari defines "shortly".
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palmland
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It took feedback from their customers (aka passaengers) to know they wanted a hot meal!? I think Anderson and his staff have some good ideas to save money and provide a decent service, but their execution is terrible.

And make no mistake, a more efficient (less wasteful) Amtrak will be good for its paasengers and even railfans in the long term. It’s the only way LD service has a chance of surviving.

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