Getting bigger and staying ‘better’

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:43 pm

If “better bread, better subs,” is synonymous with Cousins Subs in a customer’s mindset about submarine sandwiches, then Menomonee Falls-based Cousins Submarines Inc. has done its job. Branding and quality of product and service have been two of the most important issues Cousins has focused on since John Pryor, president and chief operating officer, joined the company in 2004.

Pryor has more than 30 years of experience in the food manufacturing and restaurant business. In the 1980s, Pryor was instrumental in developing food courts in shopping malls and airports while he was working for companies such as Morrison Inc., which was part of the Ruby Tuesday chain, based in Maryville, Tenn.

“It was a natural blend of my background and where Cousins wanted to go that allowed me to come in as president and make some of the changes and transitions to become more of a franchisor, cover a bigger geographical area to help grow the brand,” Pryor said.

That plan included securing ESPN anchor Dan Patrick as a Cousins’ company spokesman. The company has also worked to ensure the profitability of the franchisees by maintaining consistency throughout each establishment and committing to the surrounding communities, including the recent announcement of the three-year title sponsorship of the Amphitheater and Bazaar at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Cousins Subs has experienced positive sales growth in each of the past nine quarters.

“We look at the competitive nature of our category to make sure that we are in the top tier in terms of the quality of the product. ‘Better bread, better subs’ has been our namesake, and we wanted to make that continue on,” Pryor said. “We have really built our management team to execute what our business plan has been for two years. All of that has come together and put us where we are today and ready to move forward.”

The company plans to double the number of Cousins Subs restaurants in the state of Wisconsin from 100 to 200 in the next 10 years.

The company also went through an initiative to sell 25 of its corporate-owned stores to company employees and franchisees. A program was put in place so that it would be easier for corporate employees who had always wanted to own a Cousins store to be able to do so.

The company has also approved multiple area developers who will build new territories for Cousins Subs in Arizona and Indiana. Cousins currently has stores in 11 states, including: California, Arizona, Missouri, Texas, Illinois, North Dakota, Indiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.

“We have several areas that we are not in today but have people talking to us about,” Pryor said. “In the next 90 days, we will announce additional states we will be going into.”

Consistency in the stores comes from the test kitchen and the participation from the franchise council, Pryor said. The test kitchen, located in the Menomonee Falls corporate headquarters, is where competitor’s sandwiches are deconstructed and compared with Cousins Subs. Menu boards and new technology are tested.

“We are proud of what we are doing and we are a vital part, I think, of the community and the area,” Pryor said. “We serve great subs, we give employment opportunities to people and we are looking forward to only growth and better things for Cousins Subs in the next five years.”


Cousins Submarines Inc.

Address: N83 W13400 Leon Road, Menomonee Falls
Industry: Sub sandwich restaurants
Leadership: James Sheppard, co-founder and vice president; William Specht, co-founder and chief executive officer; John Pryor, president and chief operating officer
Employees: 400 corporate employees
Web site:
Vital Factors:
• Uniformity of the quality, the look and the feel of all Cousins Subs restaurants.
• Franchisees all on board and in cooperation with corporate office.
• Commitments to the community.
• Efficiencies in the delivery of the product.

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