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Passenger Trains > Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.


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Date: 10/05/19 12:03
Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: alan2955

First off no new Viewliner dining car. Same old Amfleet II diner lite with tables on both ends. One end for sleeper passengers only.

Got to experience all 3 meal times. Breakfast offers an egg sausage and cheese sandwich that was reasonably good. As well as yogurt, juice, fresh fruit cup, muffins, flavored oatmeal and bananas. All in all not too bad.

Lunch and dinner are the same four hot entrees with a small side salad. Plus a so called pasta and meatball child’s meal that’s the same size as the other four. Why bother calling it something different?

I had the shrimp and sausage and rice creole style item for lunch. It was pretty tasty albeit salty. For dinner I had the vegetarian Asian noodle dish. Again decent flavor but still too salty. Nobody would starve on these. Portions were on the small side but adequate.

The big downside was the service model. The attendant was a nice guy that’s worked the diner lite on the Cardinal for a while. He stated he was told he’s absolutely not supposed to go to tables to serve people, nor to clean up after people! So he heats your egg sandwich and then beckons you to come and get it. There are only 6 tables. Why can’t he serve people?? Lunch and dinner involves the sleeper attendant taking your order and a time to pick
It up. Whether you sit in the diner or not it’s a all put into a huge paper bag. Foil is on the entree, roll, and cup of ice. Then you have to go get it and proceed to your table or room. It looks like carry out food from a cheap restaurant. So you are at your table with a big bag, foil, and plastic. Utterly disgusting. If eating in the diner why do I need foil and a bag? So tacky.

The other issue is lack of selection. You’d think they’d offer a sandwich or 2, and a large entree salad.

People in general were not at all pleased. Even the Cardinal diner lite put this mess to shame, except I probably prefer the new breakfast to the former nuked one.

The people on the Meteor and Crescent are really going to be angry.

Posted from iPhone



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/19 14:24 by alan2955.



Date: 10/05/19 12:21
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: mundo

With the mention of just six tales, was a am-cafe car being used in  place of a new diner ?

Or if a diner, were the other tables used for supplies etc. ?



Date: 10/05/19 13:59
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: steve4031

I saw pictures on Facebook. It was an amfleet car. Which totally sucks imho because the ONLY benefit of this change would be a viewliner diner on the Cardinal.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 10/05/19 14:01
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: ronald321

un-confuse me, please.

dose the Cardinal now carry a new diner + an am-cafe car ????



Date: 10/05/19 14:16
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: alan2955

ronald321 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> un-confuse me, please.
>
> dose the Cardinal now carry a new diner + an
> am-cafe car ????

Same old Amfleet II diner lite with tables on both ends. One end for sleeper passengers and the other end for coach. Amtrak decided that with only one sleeper a viewliner diner wasn’t needed. Maybe that’s why they decided to keep business class after previously announcing it was being eliminated. Business is still the 2/1 seating in half of an otherwise unused Amfleet cafe car. Tables on other end if anyone wants to hang out there. So it’s the exact same consist as before.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 10/05/19 15:10
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: joemvcnj

That train needs business class more than a kitchen. 



Date: 10/05/19 15:13
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: andersonb109

You don't know for a fact that "no one would starve with these" referring to the four offered hot entrees. That's a pretty low bar to have the best thing that can be said is that no one would starve. There are two issues at play here. The first I have no issue with. Flexible Dining does sound like a good idea. Eat when you want and avoid crunch times in the diner (or AmCafe). But I do have an issue with what's offered. There is nothing there that I would consider eating unless I actually was stranded someplace and thus starving. Passengers should be able to have their entree's prepared the way they want it. Not the say some bureaucrat at a fast food service provider envisions. The airlines (at least Delta) do it in Business  Class. Why can't Amtrak? 



Date: 10/05/19 15:22
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: PHall

andersonb109 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You don't know for a fact that "no one would
> starve with these" referring to the four offered
> hot entrees. That's a pretty low bar to have the
> best thing that can be said is that no one would
> starve. There are two issues at play here. The
> first I have no issue with. Flexible Dining does
> sound like a good idea. Eat when you want and
> avoid crunch times in the diner (or AmCafe). But I
> do have an issue with what's offered. There is
> nothing there that I would consider eating unless
> I actually was stranded someplace and thus
> starving. Passengers should be able to have their
> entree's prepared the way they want it. Not the
> say some bureaucrat at a fast food service
> provider envisions. The airlines (at least Delta)
> do it in Business  Class. Why can't Amtrak? 

Because Amtrak is not Delta Airlines. And your vaunted Delta food service is only available in First Class. Us peons back in coach get squat.



Date: 10/05/19 15:39
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: jp1822

alan2955 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ronald321 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > un-confuse me, please.
> >
> > dose the Cardinal now carry a new diner + an
> > am-cafe car ????
>
> Same old Amfleet II diner lite with tables on both
> ends. One end for sleeper passengers and the other
> end for coach. Amtrak decided that with only one
> sleeper a viewliner diner wasn’t needed. Maybe
> that’s why they decided to keep business class
> after previously announcing it was being
> eliminated. Business is still the 2/1 seating in
> half of an otherwise unused Amfleet cafe car.
> Tables on other end if anyone wants to hang out
> there. So it’s the exact same consist as
> before.
>
> Posted from iPhone

And that's pathetic - same consist as before. Amtrak's management should have there head in the sand right now. 

I view this change to flexible dining on the Cardinal as a complete downgrade. Of all the east coast LD trains, this train wold benefit for the most from a VIewliner Diner by operating it as a "Sleeper Lounge" so people, even in sleeper class, which is ALWAYS booked up on this train, can enjoy the double row of windows for the great scenery on this train's route. This is nonsense. If Amtrak didn't want to operate another car, they should have done away with the 1/2 business class and 1/2 table seating and pushed the Viewliner Day Room option. Add a second sleeper to meet the demand that this train is burdened with, and again, promote the heck out of a "day room" as an option instead of business class, and thus you'd have the Sleeper Lounge ala Viewliner Diner in place just like ALL other single level consists east of the Mississippi. I feel Amtrak short changed the Cardinal, and there's no reason for it because there's enough Viewliner Diners to outfit these trains. What's Amtrak's plan for the surplus of Viewliner Diners. Why is RPA not pushing for the usage of these cars for ALL single level LD overnight trains, and the daylight long distance trains. With the Cardinal not getting a Viewliner Diner (ala Sleeper Lounge), this means only 11 Viewliner Diners are on regular duty leaving 15 in surplus. 

3 - Lake Shore Limited
4 - Silver Meteor
4 - Crescent
11 TOTAL for daily assignment

There are 25 regular VIewliner Diners and 1 Prototype Viewliner Diner. That's 15 Viewliner Diner SITTING in storage. And yes, I am counting the Viewliner Diner prototype because since it is not being used as a traditional diner, it CAN be used as a "Sleeper Lounge." Yes, the Silver Star is eventually - at SOME TIME - going to get the Flexible Dining Option, but it doesn't have it yet. 

You can't tell me that these cars need regular and rigorous maintenance plans when they are BRAND NEW. No more than four in supply for substitutes or maintenance should be needed. VIA rail runs ALL its Manor Sleepers and ALL its Diners and Skyline Dome cars during peak period with VERY little to NO room for subbing. There is revenue use for these cars - not putting them in service with a kitchen being used - just as an upsell for lounge service or attracting passengers so they have an opportunity to have a car for better scenery and viewing. 

Re-deploy for other use and service. 

I had also mentioned that a sandwich/soup option, especially for a train like the Cardinal with the amount of meals served, would be helpful and shouldn't be that hard to come up with considering they likely could stock through the cafe. 

Only 39 out of 50 Viewliner Sleepers are used. Amtrak has, and could deploy two more sleepers so each Cardinal consist has two sleepers a piece. This train sells its sleeper space VERY well. Day Rooms could substitute for business class............



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/19 15:40 by jp1822.



Date: 10/05/19 16:18
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: Jimbo

alan2955 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> ronald321 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > un-confuse me, please.
> >
> > dose the Cardinal now carry a new diner + an
> > am-cafe car ????
>
> Same old Amfleet II diner lite with tables on both
> ends. One end for sleeper passengers and the other
> end for coach.
Amtrak decided that with only one
> sleeper a viewliner diner wasn’t needed. Maybe
> that’s why they decided to keep business class
> after previously announcing it was being
> eliminated. Business is still the 2/1 seating in
> half of an otherwise unused Amfleet cafe car.
> Tables on other end if anyone wants to hang out
> there. So it’s the exact same consist as
> before.
>
> Posted from iPhone

Just to further clarify, the "coach" end is the regular "cafe car" on a long distance train for anybody but mainly coach and business class passengers.  The end of the car closest to the sleeping car and business class car is the "dining car" for sleeping car passengers only.  Staffing of two should still be the same, no labor savings.

At least they kept business class.



Date: 10/05/19 16:41
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: alan2955

Jimbo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> alan2955 Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > ronald321 Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > un-confuse me, please.
> > >
> > > dose the Cardinal now carry a new diner + an
> > > am-cafe car ????
> >
> > Same old Amfleet II diner lite with tables on
> both
> > ends. One end for sleeper passengers and the
> other
> > end for coach. Amtrak decided that with only
> one
> > sleeper a viewliner diner wasn’t needed.
> Maybe
> > that’s why they decided to keep business
> class
> > after previously announcing it was being
> > eliminated. Business is still the 2/1 seating
> in
> > half of an otherwise unused Amfleet cafe car.
> > Tables on other end if anyone wants to hang out
> > there. So it’s the exact same consist as
> > before.
> >
> > Posted from iPhone
>
> Just to further clarify, the "coach" end is the
> regular "cafe car" on a long distance train for
> anybody but mainly coach and business class
> passengers.  The end of the car closest to the
> sleeping car and business class car is the "dining
> car" for sleeping car passengers only.  Staffing
> of two should still be the same, no labor
> savings.
>
> At least they kept business class.

Yes staffing still has 2 people in the cafe car. One mostly taking care of the sleeper meals but forbidden to provide at table service. So where’s the savings Amtrak? Another Anderson failure IMHO.



Date: 10/05/19 16:44
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: joemvcnj

Amtrak admitted this food costs more then raw diner food, yet no labor savings. So on food service costs alone, making this train uniform with the others was budget negative.

Posted from Android



Date: 10/05/19 17:05
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: alan2955

joemvcnj Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Amtrak admitted this food costs more then raw
> diner food, yet no labor savings. So on food
> service costs alone, making this train uniform
> with the others was budget negative.
>
> Posted from Android

They had 2 employees before but one of them heated the pre made meals AND provided table service. Now the selection is reduced and they still have 2 employees. Plus refuse to provide any at table service. I’d guess food costs aren’t much different than before. So they downgrade service and save no money. Call me puzzled.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 10/05/19 18:16
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: BRAtkinson

I had hoped that on the Cardinal, they'd use the split cafe car with 2-1 seating for the cafe AND business class, and simply add a VII 'first class lounge' to the train.  But in considering the costs associated with dragging around the new diner/FC car against the revenue allotment from at most 10 roomettes (2 OBS employees get roomettes), 2 bedrooms and an H room, it's likely less costly to have a separate BC car and the same back half 'diner lite' car as it was before.

And although many complained about the Cardinal 'diner lite' meals as well as 'diner lite' on the Lakeshore Ltd, I consider those meals far superior to the garbage called 'contemporary dining' or whatever else they renamed it.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/19 18:17 by BRAtkinson.



Date: 10/05/19 18:18
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: mundo

The July 11 2019 roll out charts for the new service shows a split cafe - six tables on one end, 2-1 business on the other and a Viewliner  Diner Sleeper Lounge.

Now prior to this change on the Cardinal they had a Amfleet ii Cafe lounge, tables each end,  and a split cafe - six tables on one end and 2-1 business seats on the other.
The cafe lounge had two attendants - one for the coach-cafe carry out end and one for table service for tray meal service. The cafe attendant assisted in heating the food for the table service..

The other car  en-trained between the cafe lounge and sleeper, contained the 2+1 business seating, NO food service,  with the six tables becoming an informal  first class table seating area.

My  experience on  three trips with the cafe-lounge with table service, menu and quality was adequate and far superior to the menu of the new Oct 1 food service. The two attendants backed up each other as necessary.  Sounds like they should have left well enough alone for the Cardinal. based on this  recent report.   My travels were before the business car was added.

If they are going to use a cafe with business class to provide the coach snack service, then as also is the case on the Lake Shore, the continue flow of passengers to the cafe portion makes for a noisy and not a restful business class area,  particularly for an overnight trip.  Business and cafe service should not be provided in the same car on an overnight trip
On a recent cafe/business car day trip  Kansas City - St Louis, it was a ZOO, overnight would be bad. 

If they still use the cafe-business car on the overnight Boston - Newport News service, then that too, is of poor value to the business seating.

Regardless TWO sleepers need to be assigned to the Cardinal and of course be daily to accommodate the intermediate passenger stop demand and needs..



Date: 10/05/19 19:35
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: jp1822

There were really two major purposes to the Flexible Dining program:

1) Reduce Labor Costs
2) Find a use for the Viewliner Diners

This would also "unify" service "east" of the Mississippi under one umbrella as opposed to a cafe/lounge, cafe/business class, a diner lite, contemporary dining, full dining, etc.

The purpose was to create a uniformed marketable product, regardless of how good or bad the food and its service was. 

I held out hope that Amtrak "might" try to get this half way right. 

Amtrak failed on the Cardinal, and they continue to FAIL in finding an effective "use" for the remaining Viewliner Diner fleet. The Sleeper Lounge concept could have appeased some and made for a nice "lounge" for those sleeper car passengers paying $600+ for sleeper on average. 

Mundo is 100% correct that it showed a "sleeper lounge" for the Cardinal in the July 11, 2019 roll out. What happened.................and what is the future of the Viewliner Diners. 

For over a year now, it has been promises after promises to get these cars into service. Still what do we have - a poor utilization of of newly acquired assets and assets that at minimum could have been re-purposed, especially for the cardinal to increase the sleeper revenue (had the product worked). The Viewliner Diner / Viewliner Sleeper Lounge is a VERY nice car. Re-purpose the ones not needed in daily service to try to bring about an up sell or attract new passengers to a given train. I've gone into simple answers/suggestions before that could work for these cars. 

Amtrak has parked and NOT repaired one of the Viewliner Sleepers that was involved in an accident last year, and it is repairable. Amtrak also claims that there's not enough sleeper demand to add additional sleepers to the "eastern single level long distance trains." Another falsehood if they studied supply and demand models for the trains more carefully or looked to add and subtract sleepers from one train to another and not run fixed consists as much...........The European railroads that still host sleeper trains and even VIA Rail will add/subtract sleepers as demand warrants. They keep a close eye on it. So does Amtrak, but they seem to do it just to have the report........

Interesting to know, though, that the Kid's pasta meal could actually work as a regular meal option. The Cardinal, especially, at least eastbound, has to serve dinner, breakfast, lunch, and dinner again. That's using three out of four options if someone wants a "different" meal on the trip from Chicago to Virginia. The kid's option adds a potential addition. Similar for the Silver Meteor from NYP to Miami southbound. 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/05/19 19:36 by jp1822.



Date: 10/05/19 19:50
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: PRSL-recall

All this is pretty much what we expected. As to what NARP will do, I'm sure by now it will also be the same. It will take totally outside forces both determined and powerful enough to crash Amtrak's fortress.  The Anderson plan basically defies anyone and everyone that criticizes it. Therefore NARP is still their friend. By now Amtrak depends on getting their own way for the most part, the Southwest Chief so far being an exception.



Date: 10/06/19 00:16
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: SanDiegan

alan2955 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> joemvcnj Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > Amtrak admitted this food costs more then raw
> > diner food, yet no labor savings. So on food
> > service costs alone, making this train uniform
> > with the others was budget negative.
> >
> > Posted from Android
>
> They had 2 employees before but one of them heated
> the pre made meals AND provided table service. Now
> the selection is reduced and they still have 2
> employees. Plus refuse to provide any at table
> service. I’d guess food costs aren’t much
> different than before. So they downgrade service
> and save no money. Call me puzzled.
>
> Posted from iPhone

Leave it to the government ! Lol



Date: 10/06/19 13:48
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: ATSF3751

andersonb109 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You don't know for a fact that "no one would
> starve with these" referring to the four offered
> hot entrees. That's a pretty low bar to have the
> best thing that can be said is that no one would
> starve. There are two issues at play here. The
> first I have no issue with. Flexible Dining does
> sound like a good idea. Eat when you want and
> avoid crunch times in the diner (or AmCafe). But I
> do have an issue with what's offered. There is
> nothing there that I would consider eating unless
> I actually was stranded someplace and thus
> starving.
Given the fact you are probably used to "haute cusine" aboard the more upscale services you seem to use make your comment about the quality of food seems to be inline with your personal interests. Most folks are not riding trains to enjoy the fine dining, which is unlike yourself and many others who post in this blog. Fast, convenient, and economically priced is what the majority of todays travellers seek out. As with any introduction of new services there may be adjustments needed to fine tune the offerings. The levels of sodium that several folks comment about are troubling, but probably no different the the average frozen dinner found in most grocery stores. I don't eat that stuff, but I understand that most travellers know that when they travel, then the food they consume is often different then what wthey are accustomed too. Their expectations are usually, or should be, that food choices are going to be different. 
I don't travel to Italy to eat cheeseburgers, even thought there American food is often available in larger italian cities. (LOL, I don't eat cheeseburgers anyway, but hopefully you get the point) 


Passengers should be able to have their
> entree's prepared the way they want it. Not the
> say some bureaucrat at a fast food service
> provider envisions. The airlines (at least Delta)
> do it in Business  Class. Why can't Amtrak? 

Those day are over. The 20th Century Limited was a fine train. But is would fail miserably in today's travel market with it's fine dining offerings and (relatively) slow travel times. Having a meal prepared the way you want it is something you can find at a for-profit restaraunt, but probably not anymore on a taxpayer funded conveyence where the cost to provide such a service exceeds any reasonable return. 


Let go of past. Embrace the future because like it or not, it is at your doorstep. 
 
Now, i



Date: 10/06/19 14:29
Re: Flexible Dining on the Cardinal yesterday.
Author: Railfan2

why do u spend 2 miliion apiece on new diners then put them away?  stupidity
 



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