Skip navigation
Having Words With: Christine Specht, President and Chief Operationg Officer, Cousin Subs

Having Words With: Christine Specht, President and Chief Operationg Officer, Cousin Subs

Christine Specht is the second generation to head 151-unit Cousins Subs, co-founded in 1972 by her father, Bill Specht, and his cousin, the late Jim Sheppard. She began working part-time in the restaurants when she was 15, bussing tables, making sandwiches and working the cash register. She originally pursued a vastly different career path, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies, followed by a master’s degree in public administration. After college, she did volunteer work aimed at helping homeless families and also worked as a legislative analyst.

About seven years ago, she realized that the restaurant business was in her blood, and she returned to Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based Cousins to lead the newly created human resources department. Knowing she’d made the right decision, her dad gave her the opportunity to become president so that he could step back into a chief executive role.

She and her management team are working closely with franchisees as they embark on a plan to grow Cousins Subs and position it for continued success.

How are you enjoying your new role?

I am thoroughly enjoying my new role. I was in human resources since 2001, and this seems like a natural fit. We are restructuring our corporate office to better serve the needs of our stores.

What are some of the changes you are making?

We are looking at long-term growth plans instead of from year to year. Our new cost reduction team is looking at every part of the restaurants. It’s a major component of our strategic plan. Every dollar counts.

What are your growth plans?


BIRTHPLACE: MilwaukeeEDUCATION: bachelor’s degree, criminology and law studies, Marquette University; master of public administration, American UniversityEXPERIENCE: Cousins Subs part-time beginning in high school; volunteering; legislative analyst; Cousins Subs as director of human resources, 2001-March 2008AGE: 34PERSONAL: singleHOBBIES: golf, fishing

By the end of 2010, we want to add 70 restaurants. We will open about 18 this year. We have challenges for growth in the future of being able to find the right franchisees. It is more challenging now to secure financing, so they will have to be even better prepared than before.

What regions are you targeting for growth?

We want to grow in areas where we currently exist and grow from our core. There are tremendous opportunities in Minnesota, Illinois and Arizona, and to fill out the rest of Wisconsin.

How do you set Cousins apart?

Our food is better; our sandwiches are bigger. More importantly, they are made by people who really care about serving the guests. With my background in human resources, we have a great organizational culture of people who really care about the company and the guest.

Do you do a lot of training?

We have a very comprehensive training program for the size of our company. I hear from new franchisees how they can’t get over how comprehensive our training program is. It really prepares them for all-around business success.

Has the economic downturn affected your sales?

Sales are a little soft, but we are not discouraged. The good thing is we offer a great product at a great value. It will be a challenge for everybody to get through this. When the economy picks back up, we will be that much further ahead of the game.

TAGS: Archive
Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.