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Catering facilities on Heritage Railway trains (ex WSR and SVR Threads)

Discussion in 'Heritage railways & Centres in the Uk' started by paulhitch, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    No Paul, I work in a customer facing role both in my day job and as a volunteer so I get to talk to lots of people over the course of a day, let alone a year. You get a very good insight as to what people want and don't want. That's how you stay in business. On the other hand, it's you who assumes your way is the only way. This may come as a shock but there's more than one way of skinning a cat, not just the PH way. Not sure why you keep banging the same old drum, whether it's just to get under the skin of others or a total inability to accept that there's more than one way of doing something. Either way, I doubt you'll change your tune even if you're still around in 50 years and those railways "doomed to fail" are still going strong.
    Have a nice day.
     
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  2. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    You're more likely to impress me with a few good ales but I'll take your offer of luncheon anyway. :)
     
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  3. martin1656

    martin1656 Resident of Nat Pres

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    did you sample the RAT on your recent visits? the last time i visited the MHR, luckily i was staying with my sister in Ash, i dont remember getting the train, getting to ash, or even walking to her place :eek: but i do remember thinking, oh i must try some of those ales
     
  4. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Not done the RAT but I've had similar experiences returning from beer festivals. :D
     
  5. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    I don't know if it is still the case (suspect it is), but a few years back, 50% of the Strathspey Railway's business was party bookings and a major draw for them was taking Morning Coffee or Afternoon Tea on the train. As this was before the extension to Broomhill, and hence had journey time of around 20 minutes, this was a slick operation to ensure service. At the same time, the NYMR had quite a problem with a major coach tour operator booking for parties and the coach driver deciding he could drive the length of the line in half the time and so convincing his part not to do the train journey. This may well have been because the refreshment stop had over-run. What the Strathspey proved was you never miss out the refreshment stop, so make the Railway the refreshments too!

    (BTW, the extension to Broomhill enabled more people to be served, and gave a terminus right next to the main A95 - and when we were there a few weeks back, the 10:30 from Aviemore to Broomhill had 3 coach parties on board, all no doubt (from where they were seated) taking 'Morning Coffee'. That ticket revenue would probably pay for the operating costs of the day 2 or 3 times over!)

    This was so valuable to the Strathspey that I believe when their volunteer refreshment team retired, they engaged a local hotel to provide the service in order to protect the ticket income.

    Using a Station Buffet takes passengers additional time; using on board catering is something to do during a journey - ask a very close friend of mine - she absolutely loves the idea of eating on board a train and many others are like her.

    I have heard it said that catering is a service and part of the experience and the profitability is secondary - I do agree it is something people expect and it should be provided as well as is possible, but it should be profitable and if it isn't, then it is probably being done wrong. In my experience, and for a variety of reasons, on train refreshments are more profitable than a tea room.

    I don't accept the point about quality - I am afraid to do the job and get people through at a reasonable pace (given the limited capacity), most railway tea rooms are not 'Betty's of Harrogate' look-a-likes (some are definitely more 'Ivy's of Holmfirth'!) and quite often the on board offer can be superior.

    Sorry to have to say it Paul, but you work on a Railway which can't provide on board refreshments due to the laudable choices it has made on rolling stock (and shortness of journey doesn't help), so it is quite understandable that you haven't had experience 'behind the scenes' as to how this works, but perhaps you could take this into account in your strident condemnation of the rest of the movement and their 'getting it all wrong'!

    Steven
     
  6. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    As was discussed at some length on the 'old' West Somerset thread, a proper 'Pullman' (few lines actually have Pullman cars) dining train does cost a lot to set up but is profitable if used regularly. Like really all railway assets, a lot of cash is required for you to be in a position to operate a single train, but the marginal cost of further operations is less significant (although not 'Nil') and the 'trick' is ensuring enough demand to spread your £100k per annum depreciation (say £1 million/10 years for one really from scratch) over sufficient trains to ensure that it, along with operating, maintenance and of course catering costs are also covered and a profit made. £100k per annum is only £2k per train if 50 trains are operated and that is only 2 per week for 6 months. As the largest preserved line dining operations operate over 100 trains a year, then the capital cost is more a funding than viability issue (and many of these trains have been incrementally established over many years, so £1 million has not been expended, at least all at once).

    The danger is that the profit is all spent on 'other things' and then 'where is the cash?' is the cry when the 'golden goose' needs its 'egg' polishing!

    Incidentally, as a key part of making dining services work is being able to make the experience 'special' enough to charge a premium over local, static restaurants, I would disagree that a 'bullied up' coach is more viable - it is possible to reach the necessary standard but the Pullman name 'sells' and money spent on real quality gives good returns on prices that can be charged - again, a mistake made in past QB discussions that the competition was the local carvery at £6 for meat, Yorkshire pub, roasters and veg - not the market to be aiming at!

    (Calculations do not take account of 'the cost of money' but that may at most make it £2,250 per train on 50 trains).

    Steven
     
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  7. Bean-counter

    Bean-counter Part of the furniture

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    Duplicate post.
     
  8. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    There are three things I very much agree with you about.

    Firstly that coach drivers can have a very considerable influence. Hence concessions, free entrance and so on they often get from tourist attractions.

    Secondly people's expectations don't run to Harry's Bar and the like. Neither do mine. However, an RMB is a pretty gaunt place and some are worse than others.

    Thirdly that one goes with ones own experience to a great extent. Hence I am sure you would have difficulties with the point of view expressed to me by someone who felt the journey on the NYMR was "too long". The person concerned goes on long distance journeys by rail purely for pleasure and I was very much surprised by his views.

    Regards

    Paul
     
  9. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    I am thunderstruck.

    PH
     
  10. RalphW

    RalphW Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Administrator Friend

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    Does this then mean that you are well versed in visitor motivations, or is it just your opinion?
     
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  11. Matt37401

    Matt37401 Part of the furniture

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    You make a very good point there Martin, over the years the SVR has used it's observation Saloon to entertain various people such as people high up in the railway industry, loco owners and then people who matter for things like share issues (eg the bank!) It's slick, it's professional and it certainly helps present the railway in a positive light. Ok it might have cost money to entertain these people but how much has it bought back to the railway?
     
  12. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Thee and me no different. Like all railway enthusiasts we need to remember that not everyone shares our obsession.

    PH
     
  13. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    An AC/DC fan? Well done that man.
     
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  14. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    ?
    PH
     
  15. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    So come on then Paul, tell us all what your qualifications are and why you're better than all the managers in the heritage railway sector? W&LLR and IoWSR excepted of course as they can do no wrong.
    Put up or shut up.
     
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  16. michaelh

    michaelh Well-Known Member

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    But why is the opinion of that person so important? Is it just because it happens to fit in with PH's prejudices? If someone told PH that the line was not too long would he repeat it on here?
     
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  17. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Now you are getting really silly.
     
  18. paulhitch

    paulhitch Part of the furniture

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    Actually I don't necessarily think it is too long myself. However it is worth pointing out that there are people, not put off by longer rail journeys in principle, who think this is the case here.

    PH
     
  19. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Resident of Nat Pres

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    Not quite - there is apparently one person, singular, holding that view to whom you have made reference. There may well be others of similar view, but you have only referred to a single comment from one person. One wonders whether, had a single person come up to you and said "do you know what, the NYMR is just the right length, and I love the opportunity to buy a cup of tea on the train" whether you would have been so keen to repeat that view on here?

    Anecdote - noun, a story from which some like to draw conclusions. Plural: data.

    Tom
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
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  20. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    Nope. You come on here telling us we've all got it wrong. People with practical experience counter that with well reasoned posts based on fact but you fail to accept their argument.
    So please tell us what practical experience you have that enables you to dismiss their reasoning. Not an unreasonable request surely?
     

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