Cousins Subs makes sweeping changes to refresh brand, returns to original logo

The trend toward modifying businesses that fall strictly into the QSR category into  hybrids that mix quick service with some of the elements of fast casual is continuing to gain steam. In fact, this week,Cousins Subs announced that after 44 years as a strict quick-service sub shop, its rolling out a new streamlined look and rebranding that simultaneously modernizes the chain, while recalling its roots in the early 1970s.

Cousins Subs President and CEO Christine Specht said the company's management did some good, hard self-evaluation in the wake of the economic decline between 2008 and 2012. That included a thorough study of each location to determine which stores had the strongest potential in the next 10 years.

"After years of careful planning, we feel that the time is now to embark on the next journey of Cousins Subs," said Specht. "We've evaluated our strengths and weaknesses and have made adjustments to not only remain relevant in a sea of competition, but to further communicate to guests our vision and values."

To stay afloat and perhaps even thrive in that tumultuous "sea of competition," management closed 41 locations and brought seven shops into corporate ownership in recent years. And according to a company news release, the results of those moves as evaluated for the period from 2011 to 2015, speak for themselves. They show that over that four-year period, Cousins experienced:

  • 16 percent increase in same store sales for units open during the period.
  • 21 percent increase in average check.
  • 33 percent increase in average unit volumes (AUVs).
  • AUVs reached $600,000 by end of year 2015,  


With that reassurance that the company was moving in the right direction, they are now undertaking a complete rebranding which will actually bring back a bit of the business's history by returning the chain to its original logo featuring the founding "Cousins." Everything from packaging and uniforms to promotions and signage gets the updated "retro" logo. They said the tone of the new brand is aligned with an overall move toward a "more casual" environment, with an "industrial, old-school sub shop look."

 "These changes are all part of our larger growth initiative," said Justin McCoy, vice president of marketing at Cousins Subs. "Each detail is a piece of the puzzle that leads to the larger picture of who Cousins Subs is and where we're heading."

Remodeling, too

To complete the rebirth of this brand, all current restaurants are being remodeled with a modern look that still showcases the brand's history, Milwaukee roots, personality, values and approach to food as reflected in what company officials call the "new Milwaukee Sub Shop design" along with the "Project Henry" ordering process.

There are currently 21 locations with the new design with 83 more locations to go. The new look reflects Milwaukee's hard-working culture and spirit with wood floors, stone walls, earth tones and special finishes — all topped with that original logo. The Project Henry line-ordering process is a direct result of some of the customer experience research around the fast casual concept that  shows guests often enjoy the give-and-take that happens while ordering their special sandwich concoctions from frontline staff. Restaurant exterior changes also reflect that earthy industrial look inside. 

New Market Growth

As far as new markets, Cousins press release said it worked with a customer analytics provider to identify the top locations for new stores in the Midwest and has, as a result,  pinpointed neighborhoods in all Midwestern major metro areas for future sites. That growth begins with the  opening of a number of corporate locations in Chicago over the next year.

Then, over the next five years, Cousins hopes to move into several other Midwest markets that scored high in the data analysis. The company is paying particular attention to multi-unit growth initiatives and opportunities. The release said that choosing the right franchisees and sites to add to the 100-plus current locations in  Wisconsin and Arizona, is key to making the future bright for Cousins. The family owned chain was founded in 1972, by cousins Bill Specht and Jim Sheppard.



Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Food & Beverage, Marketing, Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Sandwich, Soup/Salad

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