How to Communicate in a Pandemic, by Cousins Subs' CEO
"We're looking at all avenues to preserve people's jobs and provide people hope," says Christine Specht, Cousins Subs CEO.
Christine Specht, CEO of Cousins Subs, believes communication—and especially, communication without all the noise—is the most important mission for franchisors right now. She's tapped President Jason Westhoff to take the lead, so operators don't hear multiple things from multiple people.
"The franchisees bear so much because they're operating their restaurants on a daily basis," she said. "We're trying to provide useful and clear and consistent communications. They don't have time necessarily to look and scour every website and understand the legislation that's passing and the restrictions."
Westhoff sends one or two email updates per day, "and it's very concise to cut through the clutter."
Cousins corporate restaurants are serving as a place to try innovations and pass along those that work. For example, to help employees feel safe they're testing a clear curtain, perhaps made of plexiglass, to serve as a barrier between staff and customers.
Cousins in March offered to cut royalties in half, from 6 to 3 percent, for four weeks, with the possibility to extend if the virus dictates.
"Right now sales are trending down 30 percent from since about when this crisis started," she said in mid-March.. "We've been tracking this since Friday the 13th" of March. "And we track it every day. We're not seeing any relief there."
Cousins has 99 total restaurants, 28 of those corporate-owned. "We also have our own team of 400 employees and we have people that are depending on us as well," she said. "We've been able to avoid layoffs at this point but there are salary conversations that are going to happen. We're looking at all avenues to preserve people's jobs and provide people hope.
"There's only one way to look at this. We have to continue to look forward. The teams in the restaurants and in my support center, they've been outstanding."