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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak reducing financial losses on food service, Boardman says

Amtrak is committed to ending its financial losses on food and beverage services, railroad officials announced last week.

The plan builds on steps taken since fiscal-year 2006 that increased the cost recovery rate on the services from 49 percent to 65 percent, Amtrak officials said in a press release. The plan calls for an improved management structure to consolidate operations and accountability for food and beverage into one department.

The new organization also establishes a long-distance services general manager and route directors responsible for profit and loss of specific trains, who will seek further cost savings, Amtrak officials said.

Some of those potential savings include aligning dining car staffing with seasonal changes in customer demand; establishing metrics to assess onboard sales performance; reducing food spoilage; tracking onboard stock levels; regularly refreshing menus; and exploring new pricing and revenue options.

In addition, Amtrak plans to employ technology on trains to improve customer service. For example, last week Amtrak kicked off a pilot project on the New York City-to-Miami long distance train to test a new touch-screen tablet that dining car attendants can use to take riders' orders and print receipts.

"We have made steady and consistent progress, but it is time we commit ourselves to end food and beverage losses once and for all," said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Boardman.

Adjusted for inflation, Amtrak's food and beverage loss is down about 30 percent to a projected $74 million in FY2013 compared with $105 million in FY2006.

Amtrak's money-losing food and beverage service has been the subject of frequent criticism from U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.). While chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Mica held several hearings on the matter.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 10/7/2013