Thursday, March 14, 2019


Sub Shop Bolsters Leadership Team as it Advances Midwest Growth Plan

MILWAUKEE (Mar. 5, 2019)Cousins Subs, President and CEO, Christine Specht appoints Chief Financial Officer, Jason Westhoff, to role of President and bolsters leadership team.

Starting January 2019, Specht began transitioning from her dual role to narrow in on her responsibilities as CEO. This change comes following the brand’s expansion into Chicagoland and ahead of continued Midwest growth. As CEO, Specht remains the brand visionary focused on continuing a strong culture across Cousins’ system and leading growth and business strategy. In contrast, Westhoff will implement Specht’s visions, head up the leadership team, and be responsible for the day-to-day business decisions while developing systems and leading teams to execute core objectives.

“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,” explained Specht. “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.”

Specht’s tenure as President started in 2008 when she assumed the role of President and Chief Operating Officer transitioning to President and CEO in 2015 following her father's retirement. During this time, she successfully brought new life to the legacy brand by strengthening Cousins’ unit-level economics, creating a strong core of franchise partners, and positioning Cousins for Midwest growth through implementing a series of system changes. Changes include launching a largescale rebranding strategy to establish consistency and unify the brand in look and feel across all locations, implementing grills in all restaurants, and bringing Cousins’ Midwest heritage to its menu with signature local products.

“Restructuring the leadership team allows me to focus my efforts on strategy versus task and harness my energy into building stronger relationships with our franchise partners and system,” stated Specht. “While growth is a core objective, culture is equally important. Culture lies at the heart of the business and provides opportunities for employees while making Cousins an attractive employer of choice in today’s highly competitive labor market.”

Westhoff joined Cousins Subs in July 2012 as CFO responsible for accounting and finance with a heavy involvement in defining and developing technology strategies into executable and measurable results. Westhoff’s focus has been on Cousins’ growth strategy through organic and inorganic channels. He also developed systems to achieve greater profitability, created structure for how Cousins could offset costs of grill installs so all locations featured this differentiator, systematized the corporate pricing structure, and oversaw the implementation of a new point-of-sale across the brand in 2018.

“Westhoff brings 10 years of prior franchising experience to Cousins Subs having previously held the role of CFO for a large multi-unit franchisee of Applebee’s and Pizza Hut,” said Specht. “This, along with his time at Cousins, gives him the perspective needed to be a guiding force for our brand.”

“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,” said Westhoff. “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. As President, I will continue to build upon the foundation of trust I’ve acquired within Cousins’ system and with our franchise partners as they are integral to our success.”

In addition to Westhoff assuming the role of President, Cousins is adding to its leadership team to ensure that competencies are in place to execute the brand’s vision from all sides of the business. Joining Westhoff in leading the brand are the Vice President of Development, Joe Ferguson, Vice President of Marketing, Justin McCoy, and new members J.J. Grube, Vice President of Finance, who formally held the role of Director of Finance and was promoted to head the brand’s finance department, and Alan Lundeen, Senior Director of Operations and Talent.

“This is a high-caliber team that will achieve great success for the brand. By adding two additional members, the team is balanced in their decision making,” said Westhoff. “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 is also enhancing other key areas of business. Recently, the brand sought to augment its IT and franchise sales functions—both seen by Cousins as highly valuable in a time of growth. Bringing on a new Director of IT, Josh Thurmer, to continue strengthening Cousins’ IT infrastructure and head up the management of all in-store technology from the Corporate Support Center allows franchise partners to focus on providing quality products and guest service. Focusing on its ‘develop from within’ philosophy, Cousins promoted J.J. Palmert from Franchise Sales Manager to Director of Franchise Sales. Throughout his six-year tenure with Cousins, Palmert has successfully renewed or transferred more than 50 franchise agreements in which he secured each brand partner’s commitment to reinvest through the adoption of Cousins’ remodeling program. These efforts have led to higher Average Unit Volumes throughout the system. Taking on this role, Palmert is engaged in the expansion of Cousins Subs into new Midwest markets through multi-unit franchise development. Additionally, he works with current franchisees to assist them in developing new, acquiring existing or selling locations.

“It’s a privilege to lead Cousins’ system into growth and prosperity,” said Westhoff. “It’s extremely beneficial to have a team of individuals who match our core values and are passionate about the future of the brand. We are in a prime position for growth with a strong team that is 100 percent focused on results.”

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Wisconsin-based Cousins Subs®, a family-owned, fast casual sub shop established in 1972 by Bill Specht and his cousin, is driven by the mission to Believe in Better – both in the quality of food it serves and in the communities it supports. Cousins Subs and its franchisees operate nearly 100 sub sandwich shops throughout Wisconsin and Illinois, providing guests with quality deli-fresh and made to order grilled subs using only the freshest ingredients on its signature bread baked daily. For more information, visit You can also find Cousins Subs on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.