Cousins Subs

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Cousins Submarines
Founded1972 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
HeadquartersMenomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Key people
Bill Specht
Christine Specht-Palmert
Jason Westhoff
Other food products

Cousins Submarines,[2] better known as Cousins Subs, is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based sub sandwich shop which was founded in 1972. Cousins Subs is a regional chain with restaurants in Wisconsin, Arizona, and the Chicago area.


Cousins Subs was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1972 by cousins Bill Specht and James Sheppard, who could not find a suitable sub sandwich option in Milwaukee like they had when they lived in New Jersey.[3]

The first Cousins Subs location in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 60th & Silver Spring Drive.

Specht and Sheppard opened their first restaurant in Milwaukee, which was located at 60th Street and Silver Spring Drive.[4] After opening the shop, they partnered with a local baker to make their own bread,[5] highlighted in the slogan "Better Bread, Better Subs". A large segment of customers during Cousins' early years were former East Coast residents.[6]

In 2009, Cousins announced a marketing initiative to focus on the local side of the business.[7] During the Great Recession, Cousins closed over 40 locations in an effort to focus on quality.[8]

Christine Specht-Palmert, daughter of co-founder Bill Specht, took over as CEO in 2015 when her father retired.[9]

Cousins Subs announced another rebranding in 2016 that includes expanding their footprint to Midwest metropolitan areas;[10] remodeling all locations to its Milwaukee Sub Shop to unify the brand;[11] updating its exterior design,[12] logo, packaging and uniform designs;[13] and offering improved in-store experience for its guests.[14] Along with the remodel, Cousins struck sponsorship agreements with the Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and Wisconsin Badgers.[15] It has also worked with separate real estate firms to look into new markets like Madison, Wisconsin.[16]

As of May 2017, Cousins operates 95 stores in Wisconsin and two in Arizona. The Milwaukee area stores are corporately owned but the rest are all franchises.[17]

In August 2018, Cousins announced their expansion into the Chicago market with 40 new locations opening by 2025.[18] Three of these locations will open by the end of 2018.


The company specializes in standard sandwich shop fare, but differs from other franchise-based sandwich restaurants in that they offer french fries and cheese curds as sides in addition to the typical offerings of chips and cookies. In 2015,[19] the company began using more local and regional products in their food as part of a wider series of rebranding moves.

Charitable giving[edit]

In 2013, Cousins started the "Make It Better Foundation" to help improve health and wellness and eliminate hunger.[20] Cousins has also supported local charities near its locations.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ruggless, Ron (Mar 14, 2019). "Cousins Subs' CFO promoted to president". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  2. ^ Archived from the original on June 21, 2010. Retrieved March 15, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "Cousins Subs has new CEO". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  4. ^ "Jagler: Cousins Subs CEO raises the stakes". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  5. ^ "Cousins Subs Franchise Information". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  6. ^ "Cousins Subs & Johnsonville Owners Converse All Things Wisconsin". Cousins Subs & Johnsonville Owners Converse All Things Wisconsin. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  7. ^ "Milwaukee Talks: Cousins Subs president Christine Specht". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  8. ^ "Cousins Subs shrinks in push to grow". Nation's Restaurant News. 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  10. ^ "Cousins Subs makes sweeping changes to refresh brand, returns to original logo". 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  11. ^ "Cousins Subs launches rebranding, remodeling initiative". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  12. ^ "Milwaukee's Cousins Subs launches rebranding effort". WISN. 2016-05-19. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  13. ^ "Cousins Subs launches rebranding strategy to promote future growth | BizTimes Media Milwaukee". BizTimes Media Milwaukee. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  14. ^ "Cousins Subs to rebrand 44-year-old business". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  15. ^ a b "Cousins Subs rebrands, remodels". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  16. ^ "Cousins Subs exploring new Midwest locations | BizTimes Media Milwaukee". BizTimes Media Milwaukee. 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  17. ^ "Milwaukee Talks: Cousins Subs president Christine Specht". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  18. ^ Trotter, Greg. "With new franchise deal, Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs will open 40 locations in Chicago area, three this year". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  19. ^ nicole (2015-11-13). "Cousins Subs Honor Wisconsin Roots with Cheese, Sodas". QSR magazine. Retrieved 2017-11-21.
  20. ^ nicole (2015-06-03). "Cousins Subs Founder Is Succeeded by his Daughter". QSR magazine. Retrieved 2017-03-17.