Christine Specht grew up with Cousins Subs — the sub sandwich chain her dad, Bill Specht, founded with his cousin two years before she was born. Before taking on the role of Cousins Subs’ human resources manager in 2001, Specht worked as a staff member at the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau in Madison, Wisconsin. In 2008, she became the President and Chief Operating Officer of Cousins Subs. In 2015, she assumed the role of President and Chief Executive Officer following her father’s retirement. In this role, she successfully brought new life to the legacy brand by leading a series of system changes, including: a largescale rebranding strategy to establish consistency and unify the brand in look and feel across all locations, the implementation of grills in all restaurants, and the inclusion of Cousins Subs’ Midwest heritage throughout its menu with signature local products including subs served with all Wisconsin cheeses. Under Specht’s leadership she strengthened Cousins Subs’ unit-level economics, created a strong core of franchise partners, and positioned the brand for growth in the Midwest. In January 2019, Specht transitioned from her dual role to narrow in on her responsibilities as Chief Executive Officer. She remains the visionary for the brand, focused on continuing a strong culture throughout Cousins Subs’ system and leading growth and business strategy.
Specht earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology and law studies from Marquette University and a master’s degree in public administration from American University. She serves on Concordia University’s Wisconsin Board of Regents, is the Chair of Concordia University’s Wisconsin Foundation Board, is the Vice Chair of The Management Association (MRA) and is the President of the Cousins Subs Make It Better Foundation. She has also committed nine years of service to both Lutheran Living Services and Community Memorial Hospital. Specht has received the Cum Deo award from the Lutheran High School Association in honor of her service and accomplishments in business, was honored as one of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Women of Influence and received Wisconsin Restaurant Association’s Champion of Restaurant Entrepreneurship award.
As a former CFO for a large multi-unit franchise partner of Applebee’s and Pizza Hut, Westhoff brings more than 10 years of prior franchising experience to Cousins Subs. He also has more than 25 years of financial and business experience from his time working in financial services, home improvement services, manufacturing, recruiting, and software development. He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Luther College, an MBA from Northern Illinois University, and he’s completed an executive M&A program through the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. He is a recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s CFO of the Year award.
J.J. Palmert joined Cousins Subs as the Franchise Sales Manager in 2013. In this role, he evaluated and renewed existing franchise agreements and worked to exit those franchise partners who did not meet brand standards. Palmert has successfully renewed or transferred more than 50 franchise agreements throughout his tenure, in which he secured each brand partner’s commitment to reinvest through the adoption of the brand’s remodeling program. These efforts have led to higher Average Unit Volumes throughout the Cousins Subs system.
Palmert is consistently engaged in the expansion of Cousins Subs into new Midwest markets through multi-unit franchise development. He works with franchise candidates to identify if Cousins Subs is the right investment opportunity and select the ideal territory for development. Additionally, he works with existing franchise partners to develop new locations, acquire existing locations, or sell their locations.