Cousins Subs makes changes to leadership team

CFO promoted to president as Specht transitions out of dual role

J.J. Grube, vice president of finance; Justin McCoy, vice president of marketing; Christine Specht, chief executive officer; Alan Lundeen, senior director of operations and talent; Jason Westhoff, president; Joe Ferguson, vice president of development. Photo courtesy of Cousins Subs

Menomonee Falls-based fast-casual franchise Cousins Subs has promoted chief financial officer Jason Westhoff to president, the company announced Thursday. 

Westhoff’s appointment comes as president and chief executive officer Christine Specht transitions out of the dual role in an effort to focus on her position as CEO. Specht remains the company’s “brand visionary” and will continue to lead its growth and business strategy.

As president, Westhoff will carry out Specht’s vision, overseeing Cousins’ leadership team and taking on day-to-day business decisions.

The change in leadership is driven by the company’s recent expansion into Illinois and plans for continued growth throughout the Midwest. Those plans, which were announced in August, include 40 restaurants throughout the Chicago area.

“As we prepare for broader Midwest expansion, it is imperative that Cousins’ leadership team is in optimum position to execute strategy, and growth takes a team with varying focuses and skill sets,” Specht said. “We are in a time of change, and I believe that to drive brand success and meet objectives, we need the right people in positions to not only carry out the vision but be the driving force behind change. There is no better candidate to take the wheel than Westhoff whose capabilities to ‘see beyond the numbers’ are proven.”

Westhoff had served as CFO since joining Cousins Subs in 2012. His responsibilities included accounting and finance as well as developing technology-based strategies for the company. He helped develop a strategy to offset the costs of grills installed at all locations in recent years and oversaw the implementation of a new point-of-sale system last year. Westhoff previously served as CFO for a company that owns multiple Applebee’s and Pizza Hut franchises, according to a news release. 

“My previous role as CFO allowed me to build financial plans that incorporate all aspects of the business, which has equipped me with the skill set to integrate all functions into executable plans,” Westhoff said. “More importantly, my time with Cousins has taught me the importance of communicating effectively with all members of our system so together we can meet the needs of our guests.”

Courtesy of Cousins Subs

Spech was named president in 2008 and took on her role as CEO seven years later when her father and company founder Bill Specht retired. As part of her leadership, she launched a companywide rebranding strategy, which included interior and exterior improvements to all locations, installing grills in all restaurants and incorporating locally-sourced ingredients to the menu. 

In addition to Westhoff’s appointment, the company has promoted J.J. Grube from director of finance to vice president of finance and has hired Alan Lundeen as senior director of operations and talent.

“This is a high-caliber team that will achieve great success for the brand,” Westhoff said. “By adding two additional members, the team is balanced in their decision making. Grube brings the team a wealth of financial knowledge, facts, and guiding principles so educated decisions can be made that are critical to the strategy, while Lundeen will carry on Cousins’ tradition of operational excellence through a keen understanding of culture and the real issues and solutions experienced at the store-level. His skill sets are imperative for Cousins’ recruitment and development of talent.”

Cousins Subs and its franchisees currently operate almost 100 sub sandwich shops in Wisconsin and Illinois.

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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