Cousins Subs is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year by revamping its franchise growth, marketing, and menu, an effort that its president and chief operating officer says is a balance of satisfying customers old and new.
Christine Specht, whose father Bill opened the first Cousins Subs unit in 1972, says the 150-unit, Wisconsin-based concept is using its big anniversary to jumpstart growth so as not to stay “stagnant.”
“It’s a mature company, but we need to behave as an emerging one,” she says. “And emerging companies grow, they come up with new, dynamic changes, and they always are relying on innovation.”
This year’s changes are highlighted by Cousins Subs’ new marketing campaign, “Better Bread. Better Subs. Better Day.,” which will be used in consumer and franchise advertising moving forward.
The new campaign will help distinguish Cousins Subs from its competitors by reaching out to customers on more of a personal level, Specht says.
“Food is so much more than just a commodity or just a fuel. I really think that there’s an emotional connection,” she says. “Everybody knows that loyal guests are loyal because yes, they like the product, but they’re loyal because of the brand.
“We think the launch of ‘Better Bread. Better Subs. Better Day.’ helps to really make that emotional connection for people.”
The new marketing campaign will also be driven home by new menuboards at Cousins Subs eateries , Specht says. The new boards are nicer and more upscale, she says, and focus more on product descriptions rather than photos.
“Instead of just having pictures—which actually aren’t always that descriptive, because you can’t necessarily see every ingredient in the picture—we wanted to make sure that all of the ingredients are listed,” she says.
The new menuboards will help usher in 10 new items to the Cousins Subs system in 2012. New options include an enhanced cheese steak line, a traditional Philly Cheese Steak, gourmet salads, a Seafood sub, and an indulgent offering called the Big Daddy. There will also be limited-time offerings.
Specht says all of the changes have been made with two customer bases in mind: new guests and those who have helped Cousins Subs make it to its 40th anniversary.
“It truly is a balance because the last thing you want to do is alienate your existing guest base, because they have been the ones who have been supporting us for all of these 40 years,” she says. “But, as with anything, you have to continue to evolve and you have to continue to grab new guests.”
The company is also hoping the changes will help Cousins Subs appeal to multiunit franchisees. Specht says executives at the brand are hoping to grow the system by 10 percent annually, primarily through entrepreneurially minded multiunit operators.
By Sam Oches