Noble Sandwich Co. Closes Remaining Location on Burnet Road
Delivery apps turn out to not be the fix; Interstellar BBQ remains open
By Rod Machen,
4:00PM, Wed. Sep. 25, 2019
News broke Tuesday that a mainstay of the Austin dining scene was closing as Noble Sandwich Co. prepares to shutter its Burnet Road location this Saturday, September 28.
After starting life as Noble Pig Sandwiches on Ranch to Market 620 in far Northwest Austin, the brainchild of chefs John Bates and Brandon Martinez soon updated its name and opened their central branch. The pair’s meats and bread made in house set a high bar for what a sandwich could be in a town brimming with good food.
Change isn’t new to the Noble family. Earlier this year, the 620 location was transformed into Interstellar Barbecue, a stellar addition to a crowded field. When the Chronicle talked to Bates about this new venture, he brought up one factor that, along with high rents, has precipitated this latest move to close the remaining Noble Sandwich location.
“I honestly feel like the third-party delivery system has been detrimental to our bottom line,” Bates said, “because I can't really make up the 30 percent that they take out of each sale by raising prices. As more people move to having lunch brought through Postmates, it's super convenient for the customer, but it's not built into the equation for Noble.
“Noble was conceived before delivery services were even around. It's revenue-neutral, and it has brought our in-house sales down, to be honest with you. What used to be only available if you came and picked it up is now brought to you, but our format isn't structured in a way that can recoup the 30 percent that is cut from the bill.”
According to Bates, the promise of more sales to offset the fixed cost of a fully staffed kitchen doesn’t make up for the other complicating factors.
“That's the sales pitch they come to you with. They tell you, ‘We're going to help bring you business in your slow hours.’ If that was actually the way it worked for us, that wouldn't be such a problem, because then they would have revenue come in during hours when we'd have staff that aren't necessarily doing anything for work. But what really ends up happening is everybody wants lunch at the same time, regardless. Those services come at the same time that we're also trying to fulfill in-house orders.”
While it hasn’t worked out with Noble and these third-party services, lessons have been learned. When Bates and Martinez opened up Interstellar Barbecue, they decided to go against the prevailing delivery winds.
“You can probably tell that I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Actually, with Interstellar, we're not doing third-party deliveries at all. One, I don't think barbecue really works like that, and two, I want to see if we can run a restaurant that doesn't depend on third-party sales.”
Austin may yet see Noble’s duck pastrami and beef tongue for sale again in the future, especially given existing plans for an outpost at the airport, but for now, there are only a few more days to pig out.