The range and quality of its shops and catering have to be upgraded to match the country’s airports and other major stations, they said.
Despite handling some 25 million people a year, the shopping and food and drink on offer at Waverley is seen as severely restricted.
A rail industry source said: “There is a huge retail opportunity here, but you have a burger chain and a pub that looks like it’s out of Trainspotting.
“It’s not up to scratch for well-heeled rail passengers with money to spend.”
A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce chief executive Liz McAreavey said: “Waverley is the first point of entry to the capital by rail – can we honestly say we are leading the charge in terms of customer experience?
“With the move towards mobility being a service rather than simply transport, the best rail operators are thinking about more customised options regarding information, retail experience, end-to-end journey and overall ease of travelling. As a successful capital city, Edinburgh needs to adopt this approach to passenger transport.”
Paul Tetlaw, policy forum convener at sustainable transport group Transform Scotland, said: “Waverley is in a unique location between the Old and New Town and it could become a destination in its own right – far more people pass through than those catching trains.
“However, it lacks the facilities of stations like Manchester Piccadilly, and St Pancras and King’s Cross in London.
“They have a greater range of catering, and food and drink of a better quality.
“Where there is a Burger King at Waverley, there’s a Carluccio’s [Italian restaurant] at Manchester Piccadilly – it’s chalk and cheese.
“What’s offered at Waverley should be of a much higher quality.”
Tetlaw said more of its main building, now largely staff offices, should be returned to its original passenger uses, such as dining rooms.
Virgin Trains, which runs services to London from the station on both the east and west coast main lines, backed improvements to dovetail with its own expansion plans.
Its spokesman said: “Waverley is a stunning building which is rightly regarded as one of the gems of the east coast route.
“We are transforming train services to the Scottish capital, particularly with the introduction of our Azuma fleet from next year, and we want a station which matches the scale of our ambitions.
“We’re keen to work with industry partners to see what more can be done to improve customer services.”
City council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “We look forward to working with partners to develop plans to make further improvements to provide customers at the station with a world-class visitor experience.”
A spokesman for Network Rail, which runs the station, said: “We have invested over £150 million enhancing Waverley over the last decade, refurbishing and renewing the Victorian roof, creating step-free and lift access off the Waverley Steps, Calton Road and Market Street, and adding new platforms.
“We have also encouraged innovative ways of increasing footfall though Waverley with the station market, and we continually seek to improve the passenger facilities and retail choices available.”