Born in South Philadelphia, Mike Smith was first introduced to Cousins Subs after moving to the Milwaukee area when he was eight-years-old. His father, who sought out a sandwich that rivaled the Philly subs he grew up eating back in his hometown, discovered Cousins and brought home the subs for the whole family on a regular basis. From then on, Mike was hooked.
After falling in love with the brand as a customer first, Smith decided that he wanted to own a sub shop in his adult life. However, before pursuing those dreams, Smith had to hang up his golf shoes — he was a former PGA golf professional who worked at private clubs for 15 years. But as tough as that decision was, Smith knew he was making the right move by joining Cousins Subs’ franchise team.
“For me, Cousins Subs was a no brainer,” said Smith. “I trusted in the brand and its quality. Once I became a franchisee, I learned how incredible the corporate staff was and that made it even better.”
In January of 2016, Smith, along with his wife Molly, opened one of the first remodeled and only Cousins Subs location in Manitowoc. The new look and store design — which continues to be rolled out across Cousins Subs’ system today — features an industrial design with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi. It’s clear that the new design is resonating with both customers and the Smiths as franchisees — since joining the Manitowoc community as business owners, Mike and Molly have received the brand’s coveted Franchisee of the Year award, President’s Award, the Guest Service award and the People’s Choice award.
“I think my golf background helped me focus on guest service as a franchisee,” said Smith. “When you see the same people every day, you learn to build relationships with them. We have a lot of regulars in our store, and by developing a culture of guests and employees first, you are going to succeed.”
As franchisees who are a part of a family-owned brand that’s driven by a mission to believe in better — both in the quality of food it serves and in the communities it supports — the Smiths look to donate to local organizations as much as possible to show that Cousins is a community partner not only in their restaurant, but outside of it, too.
“We support charitable and athletic organizations and enjoy hosting donation days and nights,” said Smith. “I believe that if we get our product out into community members’ hands and mouths, they’re going to be frequent guests.”
As the Smiths began seeing continued success at their first restaurant, the pair ultimately decided to pursue multi-unit franchise ownership by puchasing an existing Cousins Subs location in Appleton in August of 2018. For Smith, becoming a multi-unit franchisee was always a long-term goal, and he’s looking forward to connecting with the Appleton community.
“I’m very excited for the opportunity to expand our operations and bring our culture and vision to the Appleton area,” said Smith. “You really are only as good as the people you surround yourself with, and I have an amazing management team in place that is deeply committed to providing Appleton residents with great food in a clean and welcoming environment.”
Just weeks into operating a location in Appleton, the Smiths have already seen an increase in sales and are receiving positive feedback from guests about their experiences.
“Everyone at Cousins Subs is genuine, and that’s what I’ve tried to do at my stores,” said Smith. “Treat your customers and employees right, and success will follow.”