Thinking Outside the Cardboard Box.
Amtrak has taken the last remaining dining cars off the five or six long-distance trains operating west of Chicago. All of the long-distance trains, operating everywhere in the country, are now serving “contemporary dining” meals to sleeping car passengers.
Contrary to the suspicions of many RPA members, this move is not a plot fomented by a devious Amtrak management to eliminate the traditional dining cars from the entire Amtrak system once and for all. This assurance comes from Jim Mathews, president and CEO of Rail Passengers Association. Jim had a face-to-face meeting on this exact topic with the Amtrak vice president who has the ultimate authority for their long-distance food service.
There will come a time—not too far off, we hope—when the full-service dining cars will be back in service on the long-haul trains. But in what could well be quite a different economy, Amtrak will not only have to restore its relationship with former passengers, it will need to attract new ones as well. To do that, and to succeed, Amtrak must be bold.
* What if Amtrak should reverse the penny-pinching course it’s been on for the past two decades?
* What if they restored full-service, traditional dining cars to the overnight eastern trains whose passengers have been subjected to pre-packaged meals served in cardboard boxes?
* What if Amtrak were to actually add dining cars to other eastern trains with routes the extend over at least two normal meal times?
Yes, the menus would have to be adapted . . . simplified even. The food doesn’t have to be elaborate, it just has to taste good and the presentation needs to be attractive.That’s because—and the Amtrak decision-makers must know this—it’s the traditional dining car experience that transforms a journey to a memorable experience.
For some 20 years, Amtrak passengers have become so accustomed to getting less; imagine how delighted they’ll be to find they’re getting more!