Dining cars: 10 problems, 10 suggestions

A new tender has been held for operating dining cars in trains.

TCDD Tasimacilik has opened tender for operating dining cars of 7 main line trains (Dogu, Vangolu, Guney Kurtalan, Izmir Mavi, Konya Mavi, 4 Eylul, Ankara).

Food is given high priority in Turkey, brands were created even in planes and ferries, however dining in trains are not in a similar point. Here are 10 problems about dining in trains and 10 suggestions,

Content must have priority in tender

In the tender for dining cars, all details including hygiene, uniforms are considered, but not content to be serviced in car. A menu like one type instant soup, soso hamburger, symbolic breakfast and limited cold drinks should be prevented.

Duration of tender must be longer

Tender is for 2 years. However, more variety of food may need investment, 2 years may not be sufficient for pay-back. A tender for longer time but with guaranties for quality and variety would be better.

Dining car has to have a spirit

Restaurants become charmful not only by content, but also with atmosphere. Dining cars are seen as an ordinary snack bar. There are not many options, all fast food, as if telling “eat and leave asap”. In the past, dining car of Ankara Express was like an elegant restaurant, all tables were full, there were passengers travelling on trains because of this dining car. There’s a need of spirit including dressing of car, behaviours of staff and presentation of food.

Standardization and branding is a must

Tender is held for a group of trains according to their departure points. This ease participating tender with little capital. However, a bad experience in one train will be assumed for all. Different operators will prevent standardization. One operator on all trains shall be preferred, variety and quality shall be required.

Awareness shall be improved

There’s almost no chance to know what’s provided in the trains. The menu was published for a while, but could not become permanent. There’s no info about what’s sold at day trains and international trains. What’s available and what’s not shall be clearly mentioned for each train.

Innovation must be encouraged

Passengers of different trains may have different tastes and needs. The content can vary according to seasons and train schedule. Operator shall be permitted -and encouraged- to present new products, different offers and pricing.

Comments/complaints must be visible

Simpliest way of making a service perfect is taking complaints, likes and suggestions seriously. TCDD Tasimacilik shall make complaints, likes and suggestions about dining and food service visible and shall force operator to answer them when needed.

Supply points must be enriched

Supply for dining cars are done in departure points. When consumption is over demand during trip or calculation is not done correctly, many options become sold out during travel, though additional supply on stations where train stops longer is quite easy with a simple organization and communication.

Rules must be clear

A dining car has a capacity of 50 people when all seats are full. Trains carry much more than this. Thus usage of every seat in dining car, sharing of table with other people, leaving table faster when there’s a queue will increase efficiency and provide usage of dining car by more travellers. All this organization shall not be left to operator and these rules must be clearly announced.

Change must be felt

A new operator will face all negative image of past. People that were not happy with dining car before may try to find alternative solutions and may not even visit dining car. If a new and better service starts, informing this to all passengers is very important.

Cover photo: Steve Hobson ©

3 replies »

  1. As a lover of dining cars across the world, starting with my childhood in Australia – all these comments are extremely relevant.

  2. It certainly does need a solution for all the long distance trains in Turkey.If the current situation is the same as back in the Spring,passengers are expected to travel for up to 27 hours,without being able to purchase a simple filling meal.So,unprepared passengers may have to just starve for that length of time. Based on previous TCDD experience,it also needs good control systems,to stop unscrupulous staff substituting their own cheaper supplies instead,to the loss of the TCDD business.

  3. The once fabulous dining cars slowly became very poor with scruffy lazy staff and only ever chicken available.
    Then the terrible plastic wrapper buffet came along. A simple solution would be to increase sleeper fares to include a restaurant meal. Some companies do this in 1st class on long distance UK trains. This works very well and becomes a selling point.
    They could also offer a restaurant meal booking alongside seated online tickets on Eybis.
    What is missing is imagination. Having catering provided by a separate company does not help.
    Turkish cafes and restaurants are generally great – the need is to transfer this flair to the railway. Perhaps by each train restaurant being family run.


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