News & Reviews News Wire Amtrak to restore full meal service on western long-distance trains

Amtrak to restore full meal service on western long-distance trains

By | June 3, 2021

Chef-prepared meals to replace pre-prepared food as of June 23; dining-car service to remain for sleeping-car passengers only

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French toast with fruit and sausage
“Railroad French Toast” will be among the meal options returning to Amtrak’s western long-distance trains (Amtrak)

WASHINGTON — Amtrak will restore traditional dining-car service for sleeping-car passengers on its western long-distance routes as of June 23, with chef-prepared meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In a Wednesday press release, the passenger railroad promises “a redesigned menu,” new appetizers, and table service with glassware, cutlery and linen tablecloths, with ceramic dishware to be added later this year. This service will be offered on the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle (between San Antonio and Los Angeles; the Chicago-San Antonio segment loses the full meal service it had before the pandemic). It restores service replaced in April 2020 by pre-prepared meals as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic [see “Amtrak goes to pre-packaged meals …,” Trains News Wire, April 14, 2020]. Menus are pictured below.

“Amtrak is making many important investments to improve customer satisfaction, including restoring and reimagining our popular onboard dining experience with a service our customers will enjoy and our employees will be proud to offer,” Robert Jordan, vice president Customer Service Stations & Onboard, said in the release. “As the summer travel season approaches and service on our long-distance routes returns to pre-pandemic schedules, customers can continue to feel comfortable traveling with essential Amtrak health and safety protocols remaining in place.”

Coach passengers will continue to be limited to Café dining, which is also available to sleeping-car passengers. Amtrak says the Café menu will be updated this summer with the addition of more fresh selections.

List of breakfast and lunch meal options
The breakfast and lunch menu for dining car service, to be restored on Amtrak’s western trains as of June 23. (Amtrak)
List of dining car options for dinner
The dining car menu for dinner. (Amtrak)


24 thoughts on “Amtrak to restore full meal service on western long-distance trains

  1. If passengers have to pay up the nose to ride a train, they at least be able to have a full service meal on any LD train,

  2. In FY19 Amtrak lost $41.3 million on its food and beverage services. In FY20 the loss jumped significantly. For FY21 the company estimates the loss will be $94.2 million. According to the IG, approximately 95% of the food and beverage losses are attributable to the long-distance trains.

    A case can be made for taxpayer supported long-distance coach trains to points not served by an alternative mode of transport. The justification for having the taxpayers underwrite the cost of meal service escapes me.

    Food and beverage service is important for long-distance trains. The riders should pay the fully allocated cost of it.

  3. According to the WaPo article, Amtrak has no intentions of restoring full dining service on the eastern LDs. Wonder if the head honchos at RPA have read and digested that article.

  4. Is it possible “full meal service” cannot be restored in the Viewliner diners because Richard Anderson and Stephen Gardner had the the needed components ripped out of those cars during the time they were sequestered at Hialeah and away from prying eyes? Hey Mr. Sanchez, if Flynn/Gardner start being evasive after a reasonable time has elapsed since the full meal service returned in the Superliner diners, maybe you should try contacting RPA’s top officers (good luck with that unless you have connections) and ask them to start digging for answers.

  5. Good to hear something positive for once. As for the eastern routes maybe they could develop a more palatable more cost effective menu since many of the eastern routes only serve two meals in either direction. The late departures of the Lake Shore & City of NO from CHI should not really offer dinner. It shouldn’t be that difficult to come up with something between the packaged garbage they have been serving & the full dining offered previously.

  6. It’s about time! I think they lost a lot of passengers with their “airline food.” Any plans to bring back the wine and cheese tasting on the Empire Builder for the sleeping car passengers? That was always a highlight of the trip and the camaraderie was wonderful.

  7. Spent a bundle of cash on new single level dining cars, to sit idle, with no full service on “Silver Service” and other eastern trains. Not even a mention of when this may start in the future??? Maybe the sleeper fairs should be reduced on the schedules without full service dining. Not in my lifetime.

  8. Yes, looking forward to it!

    Now, bring it back for coach passengers and eastern trains. Maybe in future we’ll get route or train specific menus like we used to!

  9. I certainly hope they expand the service to the Eastern trains as well as making it available to coach passengers (at reasonable prices). In the meantime, this looks like a significant upgrade from the pre-Covid menu. Hooray!

  10. Let’s take this for the good news that it is, not complain that we want more right now, not speculate on how this came about, and just once again enjoy dinner in the diner, part of what is special about rail travel.

  11. I’m traveling on the City of New Orleans and the Crescent sometime next month. Sure would be nice to have this restored by then. I bet the hang up now is getting people to hire.

    1. And I’m actually okay with it being for sleeping car passengers for the time being. It’s one of the perks that’s supposed to come with sleeping car service.

    2. Yeah let’s forego any incremental revenue that coach passengers might provide.

    1. @Juan: Can you provide the source where Amtrak states that coach passengers will be allowed in soon. All I’ve seen is this is under consideration — just like all the phantom routes in their 2035 vision.

  12. This is good news, but it should be in the east also and coach passengers should be welcomed. Even when traveling first class I enjoyed being seated with coach passengers. Had some really interesting conversations.

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