Repetitive Dining on Amtrak.

Sleeping car passengers on Amtrak long-distance trains look forward with anticipation to taking their meals in the dining car. Each meal offers a break from reading or napping or watching the passing scenery from your roomette or bedroom. For first timers and veterans alike, an Amtrak dining car offers an opportunity to enjoy a unique dining experience. 

“Community Seating” means you make new friends at every meal.

I recently returned from the Rail Passengers Association annual Spring meeting in Washington, DC. As is my preference, I flew to Los Angeles and took Amtrak’s Southwest Chief and Cardinal across the continent to Washington and returned on the Crescent to New Orleans and the Sunset Limited from there lack to Los Angeles.

In all, my travel on those four trains included a total of 18 meals in an Amtrak dining car. These days, in the Richard Anderson era at Amtrak, the dining car experience is just not the same.  The menu was exactly the same for every one of those 18 meals. 

I’m sure that simplifies things for Amtrak’s Central Purchasing department, but from the perspective of the passenger—or, to make a larger point, may I say, the customer—it’s not a good idea. 

It’s fine for the “Amtrak Signature Steak” to be featured at every dinner meal, but I’d love to be able to walk into a dining car for the 7 o’clock seating and after greeting my dinner companions for the evening, say, “Well what looks good on the menu tonight?”  

I’m sorry to say that the same menu in every dining car system-wide tells me that the decision makers at Amtrak still don’t get it. The travel itself is novel and the scenery is nice, but it’s the dining car experience that they’ll talk about with their friends when they get home. More to the point, it’s what will bring them back again.