Cousins seeks franchisees to expand in several Wisconsin markets

Courtesy of Cousins Subs

Menomonee Falls-based submarine sandwich restaurant chain Cousins Subs today said it is seeking franchisees to expand its presence into several Wisconsin markets.

Cousins said it is actively looking for franchise partners in several target markets including: Beloit, Eau Claire, Fitchburg, Hudson, Janesville, La Crosse, Lake Delton, Middleton, Sun Prairie, Watertown, Wausau and Wisconsin Dells.

Founded in Milwaukee in 1972, Cousins currently has nearly 100 locations across Wisconsin, the Chicagoland area and northwest Indiana.

“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?’” said Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Subs.

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 its restaurants. While Cousins Subs previously had locations in some of these Wisconsin markets, things are different now.

“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 said. “There’s a big difference in the type of restaurant we build now compared to sites from our past in these areas. 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 said it is necessary to get the proper return on investment.

 “With our continued reinvestment in the brand, Cousins Subs has seen 62% (average unit volume) growth from 2011 to 2020,” he said. “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.”

In recent years, Cousins Subs has expanded by more than doubling its corporate-owned restaurant count to 34 locations through acquisitions of existing restaurants over the past several years. Over the next six months, Cousins Subs corporate will open free-standing drive-thru locations in Green Bay, Sheboygan and Stevens Point.

“The future of our brand will feature the prototype units we have reinvested in corporately,” Ferguson said. “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.” 

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Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.

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