Wisconsin-based sandwich chain, Cousins Subs, announced Wednesday its first-ever joint venture partnership with retired Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver. The partnership will differ from a traditional franchising agreement because Cousins and Driver will share ownership of six locations in the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin — including two stores in Green Bay — as part of Cousins Subs’ previously announced expansion outside of the Milwaukee area.
“It’s not something that we take lightly,” Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Subs, told Nation’s Restaurant News about venturing into this new type of partnership. “This is a family business so we’re protective of the brand. Driver’s entrepreneurialism and commitment to family was something that really stuck out to me […] As a growing family business, we try to make the world better one step at a time.”
Specht and Driver actually ended up connecting for the first time on a golf course and hit it off after realizing the values and business acumen they had in common. This is Driver’s first foray into the restaurant industry though he had always wanted to own a franchise.
“I wanted to be a part of a family brand,” Driver told Nation’s Restaurant News. “Christine’s family has owned [Cousins Subs’ for generations […] I started thinking about how I can create an opportunity like this for my own family. They’ve had 50 years and have done some amazing things, so I’m excited about where we’re going.”
The agreement will also go beyond just traditional partial ownership of these stores: Driver hopes to get involved with the community around these stores and to help Cousins Subs expand and grow through encouraging people to become franchisees and serving as a resource for the executive team.
“My goal is to reach out and help people to understand what this franchise is all about,” Driver said. “So maybe they will look at [franchising] as a great opportunity. I’m getting more educated myself as an owner, but the fun part now is I get to educate other people on what this all entails. […] The biggest challenge is taking that initial step.”
Beyond the six-store joint venture partnership, Driver also said he has the opportunity to get creative in his collaboration with Cousins Subs and be able to help put his own twist on things, from menu expansions to operations ideas. He also said he is willing to expand beyond the current six-store partnership as Cousins looks to broaden its customer reach.
“Next year, we're growing into the Indianapolis market, so that's a whole new group of people who will get to know Cousins,” Specht said. “[…] How are we going to introduce ourselves to Indianapolis and beyond? I think we’ll work with Donald, who has shown his willingness to jump in with both feet, right and give 110%.”
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