Start to Finish: What Inspires Execs | February 2016 | By Robert Thomas

Start to Finish: Christine Specht-Palmert

For Christine Specht-Palmert, CEO of Cousins Subs, the business is in her blood. Find out what keeps this second-generation executive going.
Sandwich QSR chain CEO shares inspiration of family restaurant business.
Christine Specht-Palmert, CEO, Cousins Subs Cousins Subs

I’ve always wanted to work with people, serve them, and influence their lives for the better; I never thought that desire would be met in the quick-serve industry. My father and his cousin started Cousins Subs in 1972, and I became a member of the team at 15 years old. I worked as a cashier through high school, and even some while in college, but took a break after graduation. Armed with a degree in criminology and a master’s in public administration, I sought out opportunities outside of quick service. It wasn’t until re-entering Cousins as the human resources manager in 2001 that I realized I was destined for the family business. Coming back on the other side of the counter, it became clear that I could uphold my needs to help people in this industry and fuel my passion for influencing others.

I had a number of different roles with the brand before becoming CEO: president and COO, to name a couple. While there are changes with each position, my motivation has always been to grow this brand to the best of my abilities. While there are different ways of operating a business, driving our brand forward remains constant. I love being the face of this company, looking at the big picture, and asking what we can do to make our model even stronger.

This industry is about peeling back the layers and looking at each in detail to make sure we’re adapting accordingly. Are we utilizing the best technology in our stores? Is our menu relevant to the tastes and trends? Are we communicating effectively to our customers? My amazing team and I hold proudly the things that have worked in the past but are not afraid to change for the better.

Having an opportunity to connect with franchisees and our employees is a constant source of motivation, especially when it comes to the longevity of this brand. When I think about leadership, it’s always been a balance of inspiration and accountability. Setting the tone and the culture for Cousins is something I hold in very high esteem. Whether you’re a guest or an employee, you’re going to know what this brand is all about.

What is your favorite menu item at Cousins Subs?

Lately I’ve been craving our half tuna sandwich with Provolone and hot pepper relish added.

What is your favorite restaurant or type of food, excluding Cousins?

I love a good steak at a classic steakhouse.

What are some of your interests outside of the business?

My family: my husband and two boys.

Who are some leaders that inspire you?

I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of nonprofit boards; the leaders of those organizations constantly inspire me. And, obviously, my father.

What is the best piece of advice quick-serve executives should hear?

If I can serve others by helping them achieve their goals, then the brand achieves its goals, too.


I was fortunate to work with Cousins in the '90's, spending a lot of time with Bill and Jim, the entire management crew, and franchisees. Great people, great company, great subs.

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