Cousins Subs to expand into Chicago area

Will be first locations in Illinois for chain

Menomonee Falls-based Cousins Subs has signed three new franchise groups, including one that will expand the sandwich restaurant chain into Illinois.

sub sandwich shutterstock

“With our remodeling and rebranding initiative underway, now is the right time to revive the brand through Midwest growth, specifically in the Chicagoland area,” said Christine Specht, president and CEO at Cousins Subs. “We’ve increased our same store sales and average unit volumes positioning us for multi-unit franchise investment.”

Brothers Amit and Kalpesh Patel of Chicago, Illinois and Munster, Indiana, are the most recent multi-unit owners to enter the Cousins’ system as of late March. The Patels will enter Cousins’ system as the first group to develop in the Chicagoland market through a multi-unit investment of 10 stores over four years.

As owners of OM Group, a multi-brand business established in 2006, the Patels have 22 years of industry and management experience. Through OM Group, they oversee more than 1,500 employees across 50 quick service restaurants and approximately 40 gasoline/convenient store locations throughout the Midwest.

“After Cousins revamped its image and menu, we felt it was the perfect time to take the brand to different markets and what better market than Chicagoland,” said Amit Patel. “Though we will look for other acquisition opportunities anywhere in Wisconsin, our goal is to be a main franchise group of Cousins in the Chicagoland market. We are excited to see the reaction on people’s faces when they receive a fantastic product with great service.”

Also joining Cousins’ system in March were Chad Ellett and Randy Fusch from Reedsburg along with Mike Gilbertson of South Beloit, Illinois. Collectively, they have 35 years of restaurant industry experience and since 2003, Ellett and Fusch owned and operated two co-branded quick service restaurant concepts in Reedsburg and Stoughton. They looked for additional opportunities within Wisconsin leading them to the purchase of two Cousins’ corporate locations in the Madison market—on East Washington Avenue and a location in Oregon, Wisconsin. There is also an opportunity for the group to purchase a third location in the future. In addition, they have signed a development agreement to open two new stores over the next two years between Madison and Rockford, Illinois.

In November, father-son business owners, John Stewart Sr. and John Stewart Jr., purchased both Cousins’ franchise locations in Sheboygan, as well as a third in Mequon. Stewart Jr. oversees operations at all three locations and has more than 19 years of restaurant experience from his family’s business, Food Services Inc., which was started by his father 24 years ago and sold in 2016. Their business operated restaurant concepts, including franchised, in more than 30 college universities and ten corporate food service locations across four states.

In addition to their current locations, the Stewarts have an interest in continued growth with Cousins in both Wisconsin and the Chicagoland area.

Cousins said it is seeking additional multi-unit franchise owners to join its system throughout Wisconsin, Chicagoland and the Midwest. Cousins currently has 98 locations in Wisconsin and two in Arizona.

“The new multi-unit franchise groups provide a strong foundation for growth not only in our current markets, but in new markets as well,” said Specht. “We plan to grow contiguously in markets near our home state of Wisconsin and believe we will experience the most success by growing in these areas first.”

“In the coming years, there will be opportunities for multi-unit investors to acquire existing restaurants while growing a presence in their trade area and achieving growth in new markets,” said Joe Ferguson, vice president of development at Cousins Subs.

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Andrew 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, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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