Rita’s: A business for all seasons

Whether their Rita’s operates on a seasonal basis or is open year-round, our franchisees are finding ways to meet — and sometimes exceed — their business goals

For customers and franchisees, we believe in choosing what’s right for you. That’s why Rita’s franchises can be open seasonally or year-round, and our franchisees love having options to meet their own personal business goals.

Many Rita’s owners operate from March through November, using the off-season to open an additional Rita’s franchise for the next season or build up their catering revenues. But as we’ve grown, we’ve also helped franchisees who choose to stay open and keep revenue flowing in the winter months. Whichever model you prefer, Rita’s could be a great business opportunity.

Two women in sweaters, jeans and boots face each other over a high-top table while talking and eating cups of frozen custard. A wall behind them is covered in wallpaper adorned with names of Rita’s products, including Blendini, Frozen Custard and Rita’s Italian Ice.

Maureen and Brian Hartlieb are operating one of their Rita’s locations on a year-round basis for the first time in 2017-18. So far, they’ve had a steady stream of appreciative customers.


Shorter lines, lower costs

Jill Harp’s Baltimore franchise is open Thursdays through Sundays in the winter months. While she has a full staff of 18 or so at the height of the summer season, her general manager handles all the shifts from November through March.


“I just have one unit that I want to grow as much as I can, and the profit margin is really high,” Harp says. “Initially, I thought it would be great to be off a few months out of the year, but a few years in I thought, why not just open a few days during the winter to help cover my fixed costs?”


Maureen Hartlieb and her husband Brian own four Rita’s locations in Maryland and part of a Rita’s Food Truck, and they’re excited to try their first year-round location this season. Even on a chilly day in November, a steady stream of customers came in to order treats, a great sign for their new winter hours.


“For me, it is going to be a better opportunity to get into a lot of our catering, to reach more people, because we’re going to be open when there are school concerts and other events going on. When they start basketball this winter, we can now be the place that everybody comes to hang out at after games and other events,” she says.


A woman’s hand holds up a Rita’s Blendini branded cup against a blue sky filled with white puffy clouds on a sunny day.

When a seasonal Rita’s opens up again in the spring, franchisees almost always report long lines and excited guests waiting to order their favorite Rita’s treat.


Flexible footprints offer even more choice

Rita’s offers a variety of different service models to choose from in several affordable investment ranges. Our high levels of franchisee support and ease of operations make our business perfect for both multi-unit and single-unit owners. Rita’s provides you an excellent opportunity to meet your professional goals in a supportive setting and a happy business.

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about the growing Italian ice business opportunity with Rita’s, fill out the form on this page to access our Franchise Information Center, where you can find detailed financial results, a breakdown of startup costs and in-depth Q&As with Rita’s franchisees.

Rita’s Franchisee Review: Albert Holley of Maryland

Former high school coach returns to his entrepreneurial dreams with Rita’s Italian Ice franchises

Wife and husband Melissa and Albert Holley stand smiling with their arms around each other in front of their walk-up windows at night. A banner over their heads is branded with the Rita’s logo and reads, “Open for the Season on March 1st.”

Rita’s franchisee Albert Holley and his wife, Dr. Melissa Holley, enjoyed a very successful first season with their Windsor Mill, MD, Rita’s location, increasing sales by 25% over the previous owner’s last season.


Long before he became a multi-unit franchisee for Rita’s, and before he was an algebra teacher and high school basketball coach, Albert Holley was a business owner. He happened to run liquor stores while he worked his way through college, and although that satisfied his dream of being his own boss, it wasn’t quite the right fit. And it was vastly different from his experience today as the satisfied owner of a much happier type of business with Rita’s Italian Ice.

His first store opened in the North Windsor Mill, MD, area just outside of Baltimore in 2017, and in his first season he was able to increase sales over the previous season by 25%. His second location in nearby Catonsville, MD, will open in 2018. This is his story.

Why did you choose to build your Rita’s franchises in these two communities?

The original one, in the Windsor Mill area, is close to where I live – about 10 minutes from there. I taught school for a long time. I was a high school teacher and I had taught in the community since I was young. One of my dreams was to own a business in the community.

When did you decide to retire from teaching?

Last year, I was teaching at an alternative school and had sort of made up my mind that it was time to work for myself. June of 2016 was my last time in the classroom, and it just so happened that in July we got a notice that the particular store we own now was coming up for sale.

Tell me a little bit about how you found out about Rita’s.

Well, we’ve been customers for a long time; the brand has a really good footprint here in Maryland. We have two children – a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old daughter. So we’d been customers for quite a long time and me and my wife decided we wanted to look into franchising. It was one of the franchises that we felt would be the best opportunity.

Then the store came up for sale and it was a good opportunity, a good location, and you could see that with just a little bit of effort you’d be able to increase the sales of that store.

Did either you or your wife have any food industry experience?

We had not, no. So this is our first dive into foodservice.

Rita’s is probably a good entryway into that area, I would think.

It is, because although you’re still preparing things for people to eat, you’re not cooking or doing a lot of those things you normally have to worry about in the foodservice industry. Those things don’t necessarily apply to a Rita’s. So, it’s a good model once you’ve mastered what you’re doing. It’s labor-intensive, but it’s pretty easy.

A row of Italian ices, some with mix-ins, are in red and green branded Rita’s cups.

Rita’s Italian Ice serves Italian ices and frozen custard in dozens of flavor combinations.

You just wrapped up your debut season with a 25% increase in sales over the previous year. How did you accomplish that?

First, we put a renewed focus on staffing the place and injecting some new energy into it. Then the second part was outreach into the community. Partnering with schools, partnering with churches, partnering with local organizations to do some catering and increase sales.

What does that look like for a Rita’s franchise when you approach a school? How do you pitch that to them?

There’s a couple of different angles. The first angle we take is the athletic events. For example, the football games. The first half of football season, the weather outside is still pretty conducive, so we’ll partner with the booster clubs or the athletic departments and we’ll go out and have these concessions for one of the games, and then we give back a percentage to that particular program.

Another angle is that most of our schools in the area have programs where they reward students for positive behavior. We partner with schools by giving them coupons or gift certificates for Rita’s as the students’ reward for behaving well in the classroom.

How do you keep your guests engaged during the off-season?

We’re still figuring that out, obviously, but one of the things we’re using a lot is social media to let people know that we still do catering, we can still do fundraising, we can still do bulk orders. Just kind of letting people know that we’re still available. We’ll still function, just not in-store.

I know you’re still new to this, but have you figured out yet what you find to be the most satisfying thing about being a Rita’s franchise owner?

The most satisfying thing, I would say, is just being in business for yourself. Secondary to that is the ability to hire young people and create jobs for kids in that community, which is very gratifying.

Is there anything about being a Rita’s franchisee that has really surprised you?

I guess the amount of people that are loyal to the brand was one of the surprises. The number of customers who just come back over and over and over again, sometimes three or four times a week just for the product. I think a lot of people would be surprised at what a huge following Rita’s really has, particularly in this market.

Is there anything else that prospective buyers should know about?

You know, if you’re asking yourself, “Why should I do it?” It’s very simple: Because it’s a great product, people love it and you have an opportunity to work for yourself.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a Rita’s franchisee, we invite you to continue exploring our research pages. You can also fill out the form on this page to gain access to Rita’s Franchise Information Center, where you can review our financial information, learn more about the business model and discover more in-depth information about our franchise offering.

3 reasons to own a Rita’s Italian Ice franchise

Our growing brand in a stable industry offers advantages you might not have thought of

If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you may already be familiar with Rita’s and our “Ice. Custard. Happiness.” slogan. But have you heard what a great business opportunity it is to become a Rita’s franchise owner? With decades of experience, over 600 locations nationwide and an expansion plan that will bring even more Ices, Custard and Happiness to consumers across the U.S., we’d love to tell you why.

1. Simple to operate

With no cooking, very little food waste and no restaurant experience required, Rita’s is a great way to branch into the world of foodservice without getting in over your head. All of our delicious menu items are based on two core products – Italian ice and frozen custard made fresh daily in the stores.

As a franchise owner, you’ll have small fixed overhead costs, making it easier to hit your break-even point more quickly. Your staff will be largely comprised of high school and college students, and our operations are so simple you’ll be able to train them quickly so they can start contributing to the business immediately.


A smiling boy in an orange shirt holds up a cone of swirled Rita’s frozen custard. In the background, customers line up at a walk-up Rita’s window.

Rita’s Italian Ice frozen custard in a cone


2. Flexible footprints and investment

Rita’s offers a variety of service models from carts, kiosks and trucks to a walk-up, walk-in or dine-in footprint. Average startup costs on a walk-up range from $108,700 to $294,300.


The affordable startup costs allow you to grow your business and scale up more quickly than you might with other franchises. Many of our seasonal owners take advantage of the winter months to devote their time to readying and opening new locations, and we also offer incentives for multi-unit developers and area developers.


A man holds a little boy in his arms while holding up a Rita’s cup of chocolate frozen custard covered in sprinkles. Both are smiling broadly.

People come into Rita’s happy, and they leave happy. That makes our franchise a happy business to own


3. This is a happy business

People who come to Rita’s for an Italian ice or frozen custard treat are happy because they’re coming in for a treat. Whether you buy one unit or choose to open several, you’ll find it rewarding to do something that makes people so happy. Our ices and custards provide a guest experience like no other in the frozen treat business, and Rita’s customers can’t get enough.


Brand loyalty is huge, and that can pay big dividends to franchise owners who want to maximize their investment. You can add catering services to your Rita’s and scale up quickly, providing multiple streams of revenue to help you meet your professional goals.

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about the growing Italian ice business opportunity with Rita’s, fill out the form on this page to access our Franchise Information Center, where you can find detailed financial results, a breakdown of startup costs and in-depth Q&As with Rita’s franchisees.