Cousins Subs

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Cousins Submarines, Inc.
Cousins Subs
IndustrySandwich shop
GenreFast casual
Founded1972; 51 years ago (1972) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
FoundersBill Specht
James Sheppard
HeadquartersMenomonee Falls, Wisconsin
Number of locations
100+ as of October 2019
Area served
Key people
Christine Specht-Palmert
Jason Westhoff
Other food products

Cousins Submarines,[2] better known as Cousins Subs, is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based sub sandwich shop with more than 100 locations,[3] founded in 1972 by cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard. Cousins Subs is a regional chain with restaurants in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.


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.[4]

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.[5] After opening the shop, they partnered with a local baker to make their own bread,[6] highlighted in the slogan "Better Bread, Better Subs". A large segment of customers during Cousins' early years were former East Coast residents.[7]

In 2009, Cousins Subs announced it would put an increased focus on the local side of the business.[8] During the Great Recession, Cousins Subs closed over 40 locations to better focus on quality.[9]

In 2013, Cousins Subs established The Make It Better Foundation,[10] which focuses in improving the welfare and quality of life in the communities, particularly in health and wellness, hunger, and youth education.[11]

Christine Specht-Palmert, daughter of co-founder Bill Specht, took over as CEO in 2015 when her father retired.[12]

Cousins Subs announced another rebranding in 2016, which included expanding its footprint throughout the Midwest;[13] remodeling all locations to its Milwaukee Sub Shop to unify the brand;[14] in look and feel, updating its exterior design,[15] logo, packaging and uniform designs;[16] and digitally enhancing the in-store experience for its guests.[17] Along with the remodel, Cousins Subs struck sponsorship agreements with the Milwaukee Bucks, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers.[18]

As of October 2019, there are approximately 100+ Cousins Subs locations throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. Cousins Subs continues to develop new locations throughout the Midwest with franchise partners focused on multi-unit development.[19]

In August 2018, Cousins announced their expansion into the Chicago market with 40 new locations opening by 2025.[20] As of July 2021, there are six locations in the Chicago area.[21]

Also in 2018, Cousins announced it would re-enter the Twin Cities market of Minnesota, after shuttering stores in 2015.[22] The initial plan is to open about six stores per year, but as of August 2021, none have come to fruition.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ruggless, Ron (Mar 14, 2019). "Cousins Subs' CFO promoted to president". Nation's Restaurant News. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "Legal - Cousins Subs | Better Bread. Better Subs.™". Archived from the original on June 21, 2010. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  3. ^ "How Cousins Subs is delaying layoffs as long as possible". 2020-03-24. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  4. ^ "Cousins Subs has new CEO". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  5. ^ "Jagler: Cousins Subs CEO raises the stakes". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  6. ^ "Cousins Subs Franchise Information". Entrepreneur. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  7. ^ "Cousins Subs & Johnsonville Owners Converse All Things Wisconsin". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  8. ^ "Milwaukee Talks: Cousins Subs president Christine Specht". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  9. ^ "Cousins Subs shrinks in push to grow". Nation's Restaurant News. 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  10. ^ "Cousins Subs Make It Better Foundation: Supports Madison-area nonprofit to uplift community | WisBusiness". Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  11. ^ "Cousins Subs Makes it Better with New Foundation". QSR magazine. Retrieved 2020-06-04.
  12. ^ "Christine Specht succeeds father as CEO of Cousins Subs". Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  13. ^ "Cousins Subs makes sweeping changes to refresh brand, returns to original logo". 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  14. ^ "Cousins Subs launches rebranding, remodeling initiative". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  15. ^ "Milwaukee's Cousins Subs launches rebranding effort". WISN. 2016-05-19. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  16. ^ "Cousins Subs launches rebranding strategy to promote future growth | BizTimes Media Milwaukee". BizTimes Media Milwaukee. 2016-05-16. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  17. ^ "Cousins Subs to rebrand 44-year-old business". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  18. ^ "Cousins Subs rebrands, remodels". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  19. ^ "Milwaukee Talks: Cousins Subs president Christine Specht". Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  20. ^ Trotter, Greg. "With new franchise deal, Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs will open 40 locations in Chicago area, three this year". Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  21. ^ "Cousins Subs opens 6th location in Chicagoland". Retrieved 2022-03-24.
  22. ^ "Cousins Subs plans return to Minnesota".
  23. ^ "What happened to Cousins Subs coming back to Minnesota?". Retrieved 2022-03-24.