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Food Writer’s Diary
Cousins Subs' Justin McCoy joins Bret on this episode of In the Kitchen with Bret Thorn.

Cousins Subs marketing chief Justin McCoy shifts messaging and operations in response to coronavirus pandemic

With dining rooms closed, fast-casual chain ramps up takeout, drive-thru and delivery

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At Cousins Subs, a sandwich chain of about 100 locations based in Milwaukee, Wis., sales cratered in the second week of March as, like most of the country, stay-at-home orders were issued in Wis., Ill., and Ind. — the three states where Cousins and its franchisees operate.

So the chain had to adjust, changing its messaging where it could from straight sales promotion to a more comforting tone that included gratitude to its customers.

Operationally, the chain obviously had to close its dining rooms, but it made up for that in part by introducing curbside pickup, which has been very well received, and delivery, available at about 85% of its locations, has nearly tripled, Cousins Subs vice president of marketing Justin McCoy said.

Loyalty program membership also increased, as more customers used the app for takeout and delivery, and average checks increased as customers working in essential services ordered for their whole teams.

To help encourage delivery, Cousins suspended delivery fees and McCoy subsidized the loss to franchisees through his marketing budget.

“I feel that we’ve settled in just a little bit,” he said, now that regulations aren’t changing constantly. Now McCoy and the rest of the management team can focus on supporting franchisees and trying to grow sales.

“We fortunately were in a position to be able to offer services that were still allowed in most areas that we operate [such as takeout and delivery] and already had existing operational procedures and partners to execute that.”

For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.

This is part of our Stories from the Front Lines series.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

Correction: September 01, 2020
An earlier version of this story did not include Justin McCoy's full name and title.
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