Amtrak Dining Service Returning to Western Long-Distance Trains (Updated)

As part of its pandemic recovery plans, Amtrak is restoring “traditional dining service” on the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, Empire Builder, Southwest Chief, Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle (for service between San Antonio, Tex., and Los Angeles, Calif.).

Redesigned menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner (see bottom) also offer children’s selections and new appetizers. Service will include a complimentary alcoholic drink with dinner and wait service in the Dining Car with glassware, cutlery and white linen tablecloths, according to Amtrak, which said ceramic dishware will return later this year.

Pictured: Amtrak’s Grilled Atlantic Salmon dinner entree

Why can only riders with private rooms access this dining option? “The emphasis has been to get Traditional Dining up and running on the Western Long Distance (two-night) trains for the travel restoration in a cashless environment (dining car service is included in the sleeping car accommodation upgrade charge),” Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari told Railway Age. “There has been a cash or card financial transaction for coach customers to buy meals.”

Amtrak said the “ability for coach passengers to purchase the traditional dining experience online or onboard” is one of its upcoming customer-focused initiatives for long-distance service. Also included are a multi-year interior refresh program for the Superliner and Viewliner fleet, and “upgrades to the quality of soft goods in Bedroom or Roomette private rooms.”

Café service is still available for all passengers. That menu, Amtrak said, is slated for a summer update with more fresh options.   

Amtrak said “appropriate coronavirus protocols” will remain in place for food and beverage service. They include continuing to offer complimentary room service, blocking off alternating tables to allow for more physical distancing, and suspending communal dining.

“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,” said Robert Jordan, Amtrak Vice President Customer Service Stations & Onboard. “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.”

Some $1.7 billion in Amtrak COVID-19 recovery funding is enabling Amtrak to fully restore daily service on 12 long-distance routes, following pandemic-related schedule reductions in 2020.

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