35 years to iconic status

How Rita’s invented a new category in the ice cream franchise segment and built a cult following that’s stronger than ever over three decades later

Two men are in the window of a Rita's food truck, one of them holding a cup of Rita's Italian Ice and the other one giving the camera a thumbs-up.

Tennessee Titans player Logan Ryan helps scooping ice on a Rita’s truck at a community event at Eastern Regional High School in NJ.

There’s nothing like a frozen treat in the summertime. And when Rita’s Italian Ice is around, people who know us will skip over the usual ice cream franchise faster than a toddler can drop a single scoop on hot pavement.

Rita’s is in an exciting space in the frozen desserts market because we’re like no other. From our roots in the Philly area, where we first opened our doors in 1984, we’ve grown a tremendous fan base, a cult-like following that has spread quickly with 600+ units nationwide.

After 35 years, we think it’s safe to say we’ve reached iconic status. We’re a seasonal, easy-to-operate franchise that’s far less complicated to run than a typical food franchise or even an ice cream business.

You can generate multiple streams of revenue and save money on labor during the off-season with Rita’s. And, with our mobile units, you’ll have the ability to amp up the catering side of your business and take your product to community events.

Marketing helps us connect

Although Rita’s popularity grew by word-of-mouth in the early days, these days we offer our franchisees everything from sophisticated marketing tactics to grassroots strategies that help spread brand awareness. Once people try our product and understand what we’re offering, that’s when the deeper connection are made.

Dallas-based franchisee Sean Evans grew up with Rita’s on the East Coast, so it was a no-brainer to bring the concept west to Texas. He and his business partner are planning to build 5 units in all. They’ve already carved out their branding strategy in this new-to-Rita’s part of the country.

“Even though we know the product is great, what’s it going to take to make someone else understand that, someone else that doesn’t know anything about it? You have to be willing to get the samples out there, work hard to get people to experience the product,” Evans says. “Even if that means that you might offer it free at an event. I think you have to really understand that you’re trying to show people how great it is.”

Two main products means simple operations

Unlike ice cream franchises, which have become so common that they’re now commoditized, Rita’s maintains a unique position in the $28 billion frozen desserts industry. Our product isn’t sold in stores, and we’re often the only outlet in the market selling Italian ice.

Our two core products are used in some combination on every item on our menu, from a layered Gelati to the delicious mixed Blendini. It makes inventory a breeze and helps keep food waste — and costs — at a minimum.

Join us

Ice cream franchises come and go, but there will never be another brand like Rita’s. Find out how you can become a Rita’s franchisee by exploring our research pages or filling out the form on this page. We look forward to hearing from you!

If you start today, your Rita’s franchise could be open by spring

From your first phone call to cutting the ribbon at your Grand Opening, here’s your journey to becoming a Rita’s franchise owner

Double lines of people are queued up at a Rita’s. Red, white and green bunting hangs over the parking lot, and red and green balloons are seen in the background.

In the age of Google, shopping for a franchise is nothing like it was 20 or even 10 years ago. By the time the next Rita’s franchise owner contacts someone on our Franchise Development team, there’s a good chance he or she has already done quite a bit of research.

So if you’re thinking of owning a Rita’s Italian Ice franchise, there’s a good chance you’ve already figured out your “why.” What you may not know yet is just what happens to get from point A to point Z. Lori Shaffron, Senior Director of Franchise Sales, sheds a little light on the subject.

“We do an introductory call, and on that first call I talk about the time frame,” Shaffron says. “We have a conversation and I learn about them and what their values are and what they’re trying to achieve. I want to know what’s important to them.”

The prospective buyer fills out a questionnaire (our minimum requirements are $100,000 in liquid assets and a $300,000 net worth), and we send over our latest Franchise Disclosure Document (FDD). Although some may want to review the document with their lawyer or financial advisor, Shaffron schedules another call to go over it with them.

“People can get intimidated by the FDD,” she says. “They don’t understand it sometimes if they’re new to franchising. I like to call them and walk them through it.”

Getting a feel for the franchise

Shaffron also sets up a call between the franchise candidate and someone on our Operations team so they can get a good feel for what it’s like for a Rita’s franchise owner day-to-day. If the candidate wants to talk to other Rita’s franchisees for validation, Shaffron provides a contact list.

What she won’t do is the hard sell. It’s an outdated way of selling anything, much less franchises. Rita’s is proud of our operational excellence, our brand recognition, our leadership and our unique, superior product line based on delicious frozen custard and Italian ice.

“By the time candidates call, most of them have already done their due diligence,” Shaffron says. “They know that this is what they want to do. They’ve done their homework.”

We run a credit check and a background check on all candidates, and then we schedule a day for them to fly to our headquarters in Trevose, Pennsylvania, to meet the team. The candidate gets time with leaders from each department, learning more about the ins and outs of Rita’s franchise, and how everything interconnects. They have time to ask any lingering questions.

This is where the sign-on-the-dotted line decision is made, and this is where it starts to get exciting. Things can move quickly, but Rita’s is right there every step of the way. In fact, every candidate gets assigned to their own fairy godmother or fairy godfather, as Shaffron likes to say — aka their personal business coach.

“They know who to go to. The have their fairy godmother or fairy godfather to answer any questions, and they don’t get the runaround trying to find the right person,” she says.

“Then I direct them to the real estate team. They help scout out a location with a broker and help negotiate a lease with them. Now they’re working with their personal coach to follow every step that needs to be followed — construction, permits, whatever they have to do.”

A short leap to a Spring 2020 opening

So, if you were to contact Lori Shaffron one day this August, could you really be a bona fide Rita’s franchise owner by March 19, 2020, the first day of spring?

“Absolutely, yes,” says Shaffron. “One hundred percent.”

It’s your call

Are you ready? Would you like to talk through the particulars? Give us a call at 800-677-7482 or fill out a form to get access to franchising details. We look forward to seeing you at your very own Spring Grand Opening!

What’s your why?

Rita’s could be what you’re looking for: a happy, seasonal franchise opportunity that gives you a second chance

Colorful words stand up on a chalkboard that say, “If not now, when?”

One of the most important aspects of any career is understanding your why: Are you just trying to keep a roof over your head? Do you want to be the next big thing in your field? Are you motivated by the reward of serving others? Understanding your own motivations may be even more important when you’re considering opening your own business.

With Rita’s, many of our franchise owners operate seasonally because it makes sense in their geographic climate — but also because it feeds their motivation. Some are looking for that work-life balance that’s so elusive in the corporate world and in independent business ownership.

From October through February, they close down their shops and spend that time however they feel is best. Some of them work a different seasonal job, like tax preparation. Some spend the time planning to scale up and add another Rita’s. Some travel to see their grandkids.

For anyone who’s ever experienced burnout, that’s a huge benefit of a seasonal operation. Sometimes you start your career with a strong passion, only to find that motivation fading and changing over the years. A 4- or 5-month break would be a wonderful way to recharge, personally and professionally.

Are you able to go to your boss right now and ask to take winter off? Probably not. Is your why still as relevant today as it was when you started out 10 or 20 years ago? Unlikely.

A happy business

Rita’s is the kind of place that can remind you of your why.

Rita’s mission is to be the happiest frozen treat experience in the world. It is, at heart, a happy business. People are coming into Rita’s for celebratory reasons.

If your job or career no longer feeds your why, then what are you waiting for? Rita’s Italian Ice is surprisingly affordable and easy to operate — you don’t even need foodservice experience. Our two key products are Italian ice and frozen custard, and they’re the basis for all of our marvelous menu creations.

Additionally, with our Italian ices in particular, your food costs are low — basically it’s just water and sugar — so your profit margins are high. There’s no cooking and little food waste. Most of your staff will be seasonal workers — high school and college kids. They’re easy to train because there’s no complicated equipment or complicated recipes.

Are you ready for franchise ownership?

There’s a saying in the franchise business — you’re in business for yourself, not by yourself. We have a stellar franchise support system that you can rely on throughout the life of your franchise. From our Executive Team to your fellow franchisees, there’s always someone there who has faced whatever challenges you’re facing and can help you steer through them.

Rita’s has affordable startup costs that allow you to grow your business and scale up more quickly than you might with other franchises. Our startup investment ranges from $175,500-$435,000 for a standard shop. For those interested in multi-unit development, we also offer incentives. Qualified candidates should have a minimum liquidity of $100,000 and a net worth of at least $300,000.

If you’re having too many days where you just can’t remember why you started this career to begin with, or why on earth you’re still in it, it’s time for a fresh start.

A fresh start that just might begin with filling out this form to request more information about Rita’s.

Why Rita’s is a great family franchise

Our happy atmosphere and simplicity of operations make it the perfect place for your family to work together on your future

Sometimes, running a business is a family affair, and that’s true even in franchising. Among our owners, we have many husband-and-wife teams, parents who work their locations with their kids and other family groupings.

A family-run franchise can help you instill a strong work ethic in your children and provide a safe place for them to work after school and during the summers. It’s also a great way to get them involved in a trade early so they can be an integral part of building your family’s future. When you’re talking about families, of course, not just any franchise will do.

Here are some reasons Rita’s in particular is a great franchise for families.

Simplicity of operations. Food franchises are a popular pick for family-run businesses, but if you’ve ever been involved in the restaurant business, you know it’s really hard work. And it’s not for everyone. But Rita’s is a food business you and your family will love to run. Italian ice is simple to make, and you won’t have to worry constantly about food spoilage and inventory. Our two main products, Italian ice and frozen custard, are the base for all our menu items.
A rainbow of Italian ices in Rita’s branded cups are lined up on a counter. The words Ice, Custard, Happiness are spelled out in white on a green wall in the background.

Happy atmosphere. While it’s true that challenges only make us stronger, there are limits to what you really want to subject your family members to. One of the big advantages to owning a Rita’s franchise is that it’s such a happy business. Customers arrive in great anticipation of our awesome treats, and when they leave they’re even more happy. As a simple frozen dessert franchise, there aren’t a lot of complications — and not much in the way of customer dissatisfaction. Simply put, people love Rita’s. As owners, you get to be part of sharing that joy.

Easy to scale when kids come of age. Unlike some franchises, where you might have to master a complex business model or spend a long time planning for a full-sized, year-round second location, Rita’s has a lot of options. Many of our territories are closed in the winter, which allows you time to plan your next business move. And our flexible footprints give you many options to choose from. Want your oldest child to take over the business but you’re not ready to hand over the keys to the store? No problem. We have mobile units. You can also count on our accessible startup costs to help with your succession and growth planning.

Learn more about our family-friendly franchise

If you’d like to learn whether Rita’s is the right opportunity for your family, we’d love to hear from you. Please 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. You can also discover more about our brand by exploring our research pages.

What you get for your startup costs

Rita’s initial investment is more affordable than most restaurant franchises, and the value is excellent when you consider what you’re really getting

Rolled bills held together by a red rubber band are stacked atop silver and copper coins, creating a rocketship shadow on the wall in the background.

Food franchises are sometimes seen as an expensive proposition, but it depends entirely on the scope of the operation and the brand itself. Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard is a stable brand with a long history that offers a lot of the advantages of a traditional restaurant franchise without the higher buy-in, and you can also count on getting a lot of value out of Rita’s initial investment costs. Our typical startup costs range from $175,500-$435,000 for a standard shop.

The most obvious advantage, of course, is our simplicity of operations. Rita’s serves Italian ices in a large variety of flavors as well as a smaller menu of frozen custard. Both items are made in-shop, and everything on our menu is made from some combination of these two core products. There’s no cooking equipment, no chop-and-prep, no recipes or assembly-line ovens. It’s so simple, a teenager could run it — and that’s often who makes up the bulk of our shop teams!

You also get the advantage of joining a proven, established franchise system. Rita’s has long since worked out the proper capitalization you realistically need. As you are likely aware if you’ve been exploring entrepreneurship, undercapitalization poses a serious threat to many new businesses. With Rita’s, we’ve already thoroughly vetted our startup process and all its associated costs hundreds and hundreds of times — we can help you expertly navigate any challenges you face.

3 benefits included in your initial investment

Equipment and supplies. Imagine striking out on your own and trying to figure out your inventory list and your equipment needs. Suddenly there’s more risk involved in an already risky venture. But with the buying power and vendor relationships of our proven franchise system, there’s less to worry about. We’ve already figured out the best options for all your equipment and supplies. And, because most of what we sell is water and ice, you don’t have to worry about spoilage and food waste.
Three frozen custard cones with a Rita’s branded paper wrap around the bottom of the cone. One is vanilla, one is chocolate-vanilla swirl, and one is covered in rainbow sprinkles. A small bowl of rainbow sprinkles, with some sprinkles spilled out onto the wooden table, rests between the first and second cones.

Training and support. Have you ever been to Cool University? Not *a* cool university; the Cool University. You will when you join Rita’s, since that’s where we send all our new franchisees to learn the tricks of the trade. They wrap up with 40 hours of hands-on experience at a certified training location so they can put in practice everything they’ve just learned. “My vision for Rita’s is to make sure we can consistently execute on an operational excellence that really wows our guests,” says Rita’s President and CEO Linda Chadwick. “We get great high marks for our Cool University and our ongoing training programs.”

Hub-and-spoke business model. If you’re looking for either a way to scale quickly or a smaller footprint to start with, we offer a Rita’s Express unit for an initial investment of just $121,100-$309,900. An Express unit is a self-contained shop with its own production area that works well in alternative locations such as parks, universities, sports arenas, convention centers, airports and more. You can also use a freestanding operation as your base from which to launch mobile units or Express units. That flexibility can help you increase your revenue streams more quickly.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about the franchise 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. You can also find more information about our franchise by exploring our research pages.