3.9.18

ON-TRAIN DINING GIVES RAIL A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

That's the attitude at Swiss Federal, where they've just rolled out double-deck electric multiple unit trains complete with full dining service on the upper level of one car.



The first of these cars will go into service on the Geneva and St. Gallen run, which takes about five hours over about 350 kilometers.  The longest Swiss train runs take no more than eight or nine hours, and there is food service on all such routes.
Commissioning of the IC200s and the 29 single-deck Stadler Giruno high speed trains will increase SBB’s fleet of dining cars from 107 to 159 vehicles by 2021. This will enable the railway to provide a full restaurant service on every InterCity and EuroCity train.

Catering subsidiary Elvetino launched a new menu in April, which SBB says ‘has already proved its worth’. The full range is available on all InterCity and EuroCity dining cars between 06.30 and 21.00, offering ‘tried and tested Swiss classics’ as well as lighter snacks and drinks to eat in or take away. At seat dining is also offered in first class on some services.
Florida's Brightline still don't cover such distances, and the longest trip is currently around two hours, and yet they see the value of feeding passengers.
Designed for leisure and business travelers seeking a premium travel alternative, the new Select service is the latest iteration of the innovative guest experience on the only hospitality-focused passenger rail service. Select service is now available and bookable on the enhanced Go Brightline app.

“We are reimagining train travel based on the feedback and interest of our guests,” said Brightline President and COO Patrick Goddard. “It’s more than connecting cities and people but providing a hospitality focused approach to transform the journey. The new Select service has been thoughtfully designed and implemented, from the wine selections to the on-board food offerings.”

Brightline Select service begins from the moment guests arrive with inclusive station parking. The enhanced Select Lounge in the three South Florida stations will offer curated** food and beverage items throughout the day. From opening to 11 a.m., the Select Lounges will offer an unlimited complimentary breakfast spread with warm, freshly baked goods by Zak the Baker, fresh whole fruits, yogurt parfaits, fruit cups and daily freshly squeezed orange juice until 11 a.m. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., guests traveling on Select will enjoy seasonal healthy offerings and a self-serve wine and champagne station. After 3 p.m., Select Lounge guests can enjoy self-service beverage stations offering champagne, wine and beer, along with imported Italian charcuterie and cheese, and freshly-baked bread. Freshly brewed Illy coffee, assorted teas and an assortment of PepsiCo products and bottled water are also available throughout the day. During the weekends, the lounges will feature special surprises for guests, like a mimosa or a Bloody Mary station.

Business services and amenities are also available in the Select Lounges, including independent workstations, complimentary wireless printing and scanning, stationary supplies, iPad usage, magazines and newspapers.
It's easy enough to roll out the corporate-speak and the upscale-sounding spin: it accompanies Amtrak's box lunches, after all. (What in the name of Fred Harvey is curated food?)

The presentation makes the difference.  There are no dining cars on what is still a fast regional train; there are, however, treats available in the Select (the term of art for first class these days) lounge.


Unattributed photograph retrieved from Railway Age.

A party of four on the Lake Shore or Capitol Limited has to make do the way soldiers on the battlefield do, without the benefit of purpose-built mess-kits.


"Cheap Recycled Airline Pickings."
Unattributed image retrieved from Railway Age.

In Switzerland, the presence of food service is the trump card for attracting passengers.

Is the absence of food service on Amtrak trains the trump card for getting rid of the service?
To the extent that “discretionary” and “experiential” demand exists for Amtrak’s service, stripping out the “experience” dimension of the travel experience seems a particularly counterproductive way to attract and retain customers. Successful, growing, non-subsidy-dependent purveyors of experiential travel in the rail sector are not trying to starve themselves into prosperity. Even VIA Rail Canada, which like Amtrak is dependent upon government support, has aggressively enhanced its travel experience.

Manage costs? Of course. Every business does that. But stripping out the features that make the travel experience uniquely attractive to customers, and that generate repeat business and favorable word-of- mouth marketing, is exactly the wrong way to manage the enterprise. The same thing is true in other sectors as well. All classes of service on Anderson’s previous employer, Delta Air Lines, even in domestic markets, enjoy enhanced and ever-growing amenities and features. The same is true on all cruise ship lines.

Amtrak is also dead wrong about the character of its long-distance customers. The overwhelming majority are simply people trying to get somewhere and who are willing to endure Amtrak’s increasingly parsimonious experience to do so. These people by definition are infrequent rail customers, but they make up for it with high-value purchases when they do travel. Many need help from an agent to plan their trip, to understand where the trains and connecting buses go, how to make connections, and how to deal with problems that crop up along the way. They are often elderly, or parents with children who need help to check bags. They go a long way—in the West, on average, their trip spans three to five meal periods—and they do not want to fast along the way. They are perturbed to discover that they can’t get sleeping car space (and pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for the privilege) because the sleepers are sold out months in advance, and Amtrak refuses to lease new cars to accommodate them. Amtrak fails these travelers just as much as the summer tourist or foreign visitor, by depriving them of the very attributes of train travel that make train travel appealing in the first place. It is easy to believe that none of Amtrak’s senior managers has ever booked and taken a two- or three-night trip on their own trains.
Furthermore, should they succeed in hiving off all the remaining trains to the states, in the absence of anything resembling food service, they're likely to be an even greater money suck.

Where is the first state Department of Transportation to decide that if its legislature is on the hook for the regional trains, an operator other than Amtrak ought be brought in?

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