Amtrak sold HOW many bottles of water last year?

(NIKKI KAHN – THE WASHINGTON POST)

In a world where we can get designer doughnuts and fancy Ramen noodles topped with kurobuta, why should we settle for less than gourmet when it comes to our train food?

This is partly why Amtrak has hired the likes of super chefs Michel Richard and Seattle’s Tom Douglas to help up its food game as I reported in a story today. Healthier, better tasting fare is one goal. Financial stability is another for the passenger rail line that is often criticized for receiving government subsidies.

I learned a great deal about logistics and all the hoops that Amtrak has to jump through to get you that cup of coffee. I also picked up a few interesting tidbits that didn’t make the final story — mostly for space reasons — that my editor suggested I share here:

In fiscal year 2012, Amtrak sold 25,040,706 individual items, an average of 68,604 per day, on trains.

Among the most popular offerings:

Bottled water: 1,509,672

DiGiorno pizza: 394,587

Chicken Caésar salad: 57,239

Hot dogs: 551,237

It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean hot dogs are more popular than salads. Hot dogs are more widely available on Amtrak routes than are perishable items like salads, so that skews the number.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman was very enthusiastic about the changes the rail line was making to its food menu. In an interview after a recent Congressional hearing, Boardman said he was a fan of the belVita breakfast biscuits and wants to see if he can offer them in meal cars. His favorite Amtrak meal? The grilled-to-order Signature Steak, available on long-distance routes. On shorter hops, he likes the cheeseburger.

What was my favorite item? I thought the hummus and pretzel chip snack I had on the Northeast Regional to New York was pretty darn good. A bit pricey at $4 — but a tasty, and healthier, alternative to a giant bag of potato chips.

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