Cousins Subs announced today a plan to further expand its franchise base throughout Wisconsin. With nearly 100 locations across Wisconsin, the Chicagoland area and northwest Indiana, the brand plans to expand its footprint throughout the state. The brand is actively looking for franchise partners in target markets including Beloit, Eau Claire, Fitchburg, Hudson, Janesville, La Crosse, Lake Delton, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Watertown, Wausau and Wisconsin Dells.
Cousins Subs story began in 1972 when Bill Specht and his cousin set out to bring their favorite sub sandwiches from Atlantic City, N.J. to their new hometown of Milwaukee. Since then, Cousins Subs has built a name for itself throughout the Midwest, by serving better subs on their famous bread baked daily and featuring only the highest quality meats, produce and sides sourced locally whenever possible. Their commitment to the Dairy state is further cemented by the exclusive use of Wisconsin cheeses and dairy and a partnership with the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
Cousins Subs believes in better through the continual improvement in everything it does, and the plan to further expand in Wisconsin brings that belief to life. While broader growth goals aim to reach states outside of Wisconsin and the Midwest, Cousins Subs is grounded in Wisconsin and takes great pride in that heritage.
“Having grown up in Wisconsin, I am proud to be Local at Heart,” says Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Subs. “It’s time for us to look around at our home state and ask ourselves honestly, ‘what do we need to do to grow this brand further at home?’”
Part of the answer, according to Cousins Subs Vice President of Development Joe Ferguson, is recognizing that a larger part of that growth comes from the physical layout and design of the location itself. While Cousins Subs previously had locations in some of these Wisconsin markets, things are different this time around.
“There’s a big difference in the type of restaurant we build now compared to sites from our past in these areas” Ferguson says. “We no longer consider in-line locations for new restaurants. Instead, we specifically look for sites that are more visible and have drive-thru capabilities.”
While freestanding or end-cap locations are typically a larger investment, Ferguson says it is necessary to get the proper return on investment.
“With our continued reinvestment in the brand, Cousins Subs has seen 62% AUV growth from 2011 to 2020,” he says. “In addition, Cousins Subs has experienced comp sales growth for 24 out of the past 29 quarters from 2013 to 2020. This includes three quarters of comp sales growth in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Cousins Subs is confident in the brand’s ability to thrive throughout the state. “We want to re-enter these markets with a successful, proven strategy that we as a company have invested in and fully stand behind,” Ferguson says. “Our new prototype location has seen tremendous success and we have the tools needed to pick the best sites.”
In recent years, Cousins Subs has expanded their corporate investment by more than doubling their corporate-owned unit count to 34 locations through acquisitions of existing units over the past several years. Over the next six months, Cousins Subs corporate will open four free-standing drive-thru locations outside of the Milwaukee area in Green Bay, Sheboygan and Stevens Point.
“The future of our brand will feature the prototype units we have reinvested in corporately,” Ferguson says. “It’s a strategy we not only believe in, but that we’ve also invested in heavily corporately. We are seeking franchise partners who also see the value, growth potential and opportunity to help us grow the brand in our home state.”
Local Cousins Subs franchisees receive ample support from the brand through a robust, Wisconsin-based team. Its team of business consultants and field trainers work with and support franchisees through multiple facets of the business. Not only are franchisees provided with a proven blueprint for success, but they also receive ample support related to integrated marketing, advanced training and top-of-the-line operations tools to help them thrive.
“Know that you’re with a brand that cares,” says Mike Smith, Cousins Subs multi-unit franchise owner. “The culture is great; the product is great. If you follow everything how it was originally set up and do everything the Cousins Subs way, then you’ll be successful.”
Cousins Subs currently has single and multi-unit development opportunities in select markets throughout Wisconsin.