Rita’s Italian Ice announces 4 new franchise store openings

Rita’s franchise growth gets off to a strong start in 2019 with Q1 openings establishing momentum

Seven young woman in brightly colored Rita’s branded T-shirts stand behind a Rita’s counter that reads, “Custard. Happiness.” Signs atop the glass cases read, “Made Fresh Here Daily!”

Stepping up to increase Rita’s franchise growth was one of our goals for 2019, and we’re getting off to a strong start with four new locations opening in the first quarter:

  • Mother-and-son team Tammy and Adam Wiley are opening two locations inside Bedford Candies, their candy and gourmet popcorn shops, in Bedford and Altoona, PA. They moved their production warehouse earlier this year to accommodate both businesses.
  • Husband and wife Emily and Eric King opened Rita’s in Riverton, Utah, in January, our first opening of the year. The Kings are already planning a second location in West Jordan, Utah, later this year.
  • Hieu (Hugh) D. Luu and Thank (Taylor) Luu-Yip opened a Rita’s in Santa Clara, CA, outside of San Jose.

Five different colors of gelati in red, white and green Rita’s-branded cups, all topped with swirls of chocolate or vanilla frozen custard, are arranged in a V formation.

Why Rita’s is a great bet right now

Entrepreneurs like Deepak Verma, who is opening a Rita’s inside his Subway franchise at Whitehall Terminal in New York City this spring, know how to capitalize on a long-established successful brand that has 600 locations nationwide.

Verma lives with his wife, Amita, and their two children, a 16-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, in South Jersey, where they’ve been big fans and loyal customers of Rita’s for years, visiting about once a week on average. Verma, who owns multiple food franchises including the Subway at Whitehall Terminal, didn’t even think twice when he decided to add a co-brand to his roomy Subway location.

“I didn’t look at any other brands,” he says. “It’s low food cost and high profit margin, and that’s very important.”

Located at the busy Staten Island Ferry terminal means Verma is in a high-traffic area for both commuters and tourists, which is perfect for a Rita’s location. The experienced entrepreneur also likes the growth and momentum he’s seeing with Rita’s right now.

“There is a big opportunity to make money,” Verma says. “They are adding new locations and people are starting to know about this brand everywhere. The brand is growing, so everybody will grow with this brand.”

What it costs to open a Rita’s franchise

Depending on a variety of factors, such as which service model you choose, our initial startup costs range from $175,500 – $435,000, according to our most recent Franchise Disclosure Document. We offer simple operations in a fun business that’s perfect for both multi-unit and single-unit owners. Rita’s franchise growth is on track to increase this year, offering entrepreneurs an excellent opportunity to grow along with us. Qualified candidates need $100,000 in liquid capital and must have a net worth of at least $300,000.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about Rita’s franchise growth and the opportunity to open an Italian ice business in your area, 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.

Our seasonal franchises reap big rewards every spring on Opening Day

No matter how un-spring like the weather may be, brand fans brave the weather for their favorite first sign of spring: Rita’s grand re-opening

The red-and-white awning of a Rita’s location at the base of a tall building shows dozens of customers lined up at the door and all the way down the block along a city street.

March 20 is a big day for a couple of reasons. It’s the first day of spring, of course, but more significantly for Rita’s Italian Ice, it’s the grand re-opening day for most of our northern locations. While Rita’s can be open year-round in warmer climates, in our core Northeastern markets and elsewhere, it makes more sense to operate as a seasonal franchise. As our multi-unit owners can attest, that doesn’t hurt business at all.

This year, all of our locations opened on March 1, with an eye toward building up to the big Opening Day on the first day of spring. That’s the day that, come rain or snow, you’re likely to see customers lining up for a free Rita’s treat and access to the full menu of Italian ices, frozen custard and Blendinis, Gelatis, Mistos and more.

Benefits of a seasonal franchise

What’s your “why” — the reason you want to start a business? For many people, a big part of the answer is having more control over their own schedules and more flexibility in general. A business with a seasonal break can provide opportunities for recreation and rejuvenation, or it can give you the bandwidth you need to plot out your next business step.

Many Rita’s owners, particularly in colder climates, 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.
Customers line up along the sidewalk by the dozens to get access to a Rita’s. The brand’s red and white striped awning can be seen on the building to the left in the background.

As Joe Mathews, CEO of Franchise Performance Group and author of Street Smart Franchising, writes: “Many people are afraid that seasonality means lost opportunities, but that doesn’t have to be the case. A strong seasonal business allows franchise candidates to make full-time money in a shortened time frame. That affords them more opportunity to enjoy vacation time or family time; to take on other money-making projects in the off-season, such as a counter-season business (think landscaping and snow-blowing or skis and skateboards); or even spend time honing a sharper business plan for their existing seasonal business, allowing them to come back rested and ready to knock it out of the park.”

Seasonality has allowed to open another Maryland location this year, just three years after opening their first Rita’s franchise. That’s because they’ve spent their off-season plotting new growth.

Seasonality builds demand

Maureen and Brian Hartlieb’s seasonal locations in Maryland tend to garner big attention on Opening Day.

“We are lucky enough that where one of our seasonal franchises is, closing for the winter is a long-standing tradition, so re-opening is something that they look forward to,” says Maureen. “When we are there preparing and we’re starting to hang signs, people will come by and say, ‘Oh my gosh, we can’t wait, we can’t wait.’ I think it is that amazing experience they have all throughout the summer that keeps them coming back and saying, ‘Oh, we know it’s gonna be even bigger, and it’s gonna be better.’”

Learn more

Have you considered the benefits of a seasonal franchise? You can explore more about our brand on our research pages, or fill out the form on this page to start a conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

How to gain brand fans in a new market

When you introduce Rita’s frozen dessert franchise in a new territory, our unique products and business model create big advantages. Here’s how to claim your market.

A teenage boy and girl lie on their stomachs in the grass, propped on their elbows, while they enjoy Italian ice in a Rita’s branded cup and frozen custard in a cone wrapped in red and green striped Rita’s branded paper.
You’re not just opening any old ice cream franchise. You’re opening a Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, a concept so unique that it clearly stands out from other frozen dessert franchises. Our unique product offering is one of the things that will give you an edge in growing your business.

“Having a Rita’s Italian Ice for the first time is a game changer,” wrote Yelp reviewer Mechelle S. of Roanoke, TX, “in terms of pleasure and enjoyment you get on a super hot July day or any day for that matter. If you have never been here, then you are missing out.”

Opening in a new market

Rita’s has several winning strategies for opening in a new market. For instance, franchisees contribute to a New Store Marketing Program, which funds a customized marketing plan for their shop. The plan may include paid social media, out of home options, broadcast media, SEM, direct mail, digital banner ads, local publications, etc., all targeted at a hyper-local level.

We create a Facebook page as soon as the lease is signed so that we can begin to build awareness through social media within the community. Both our Marketing team and the franchisees have access to post. This page is part of our corporate location structure to ensure a strong branded presence in a new community.

New franchisees begin weekly touch base calls during which we cover a variety of marketing tactics, including:

  • Social media recommendations (including Meet Our Treats posts that walk guests through the menu in an engaging and fun manner)
  • Utilizing a trade area analysis to identify competitors, targets and affinity drivers
  • Engaging with the local chamber of commerce for B2B opportunities and a ribbon cutting/member mixer
  • Distribution of coupons in the community (we provide each shop with 2,500 to start)
  • Catchy visuals at the shop level, including banners, window clings, etc.
  • Sampling at local schools, fairs, festivals and large events (prior to and after opening)
  • The use of our Ice Guy Mascot to promote visual branding and community engagement
  • Ice drops to local businesses and media outlets
  • Hosting a Friends & Family event

Multi-unit franchisee Sean Evans grew up out East, so he didn’t have to be sold on the product. But when he and his wife moved to the Dallas area, they missed their favorite Philly-based frozen treat. Opening a string of locations here just made sense. He and his business partner, a cousin, bought the rights to five Rita’s units in the Dallas area, with the first one expected to open this spring.

Rita’s franchising team has been very patient with the first-time franchisees, addressing every concern and answering every question.

“We’re bringing a great product into a new arena,” Evans says. “So even though we know the product is great, what’s going to make it great for someone else that doesn’t know anything about it? I think you have to be willing to get the samples out there, work hard to get people to experience the product. Even if that means that it might be free at an event.”

Satellite options, such as food trucks, help you build your brand

If you’re thinking of introducing Rita’s in an underdeveloped market, we can help you introduce this unique and beloved product to a lot of people without having to build multiple stores immediately.
Rita’s branded vans, one with a walk-up window and one smaller van, are parked in a perpendicular formation in a concrete lot on a partly cloudy day.

One of the ways you can do this is by building up satellite locations. As a franchisee in a new market, you can treat your first retail location as your base of operations. By opening up satellite units such as a kiosk or a food truck, you can efficiently increase your revenue streams while you spread brand awareness.

Getting involved in your community, attending community events and offering free samples, as Evans notes, is also an effective way to let people know about your business. You’ll also have access to a business coach who can guide you through our marketing materials and determine the best way to share promotions in your area.

Learn more

This will be a big year for Rita’s as we strive to grow our frozen dessert franchises into new and underdeveloped markets. To find out about our brand, please explore our research pages. 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 more Rita’s franchise reviews.

Rita’s Italian Ice named top franchise for veterans

Entrepreneur magazine includes Rita’s frozen desserts franchise among the top franchise picks for veterans transitioning to civilian life

A soldier with his back to the camera holds a gleeful little boy who is hugging the man’s neck while clasping an American flag. An out of focus American flag can be seen flying in the background.

Rita’s Italian Ice was once again named among the top franchises for veterans by Entrepreneur magazine.

The skills you gained in the military can help you be a top operator with our unique frozen desserts franchise. While our owners come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from corporate America to the restaurant industry, Entrepreneur magazine has recognized that our successful franchise business is ideal for military veterans.

How Entrepreneur ranked the franchises

Entrepreneur magazine invited franchise companies that offer financial incentives to veterans to participate in a survey about their veterans programs. “From there,” the magazine says, “we developed our ranking of the top 150 franchises for veterans, taking into account each company’s veteran incentive, how veteran franchisees are attracted to and supported by the company, and how each company scored in the 2018 Franchise 500.”

To help support veterans, we offer a 50% discount off our $30,000 franchise fee to all veterans who were honorably discharged and are qualified franchise candidates. That’s a significant savings to give you a headstart on making your entrepreneurial dreams come true.

Why Rita’s is a great business for vets

We are a proud member of VetFran, the branch of the International Franchise Association (IFA) that helps U.S. military vets transition into civilian life by giving them greater access to franchising opportunities.

The skill sets that veterans develop during their time in the military happen to dovetail perfectly with the skills you need to be a successful franchise owner. Rita’s is a great business in which to develop up-and-coming leaders. Our Treat Team members tend to be high school and college students, and many franchise owners enjoy helping them develop a strong work ethic and leadership skills.

As a franchise owner, you’ll teach them how to make our delicious Italian ice in the store every day, and how to make the perfect swirl of frozen custard atop a Gelati. You and any of your full-time managers will learn all the particular facets of running a Rita’s at our corporate headquarters in Trevose, PA, and then you’ll pass along those skills to all the people you’ll hire to work in your Rita’s franchise.
A row of various colorful Italian Ice and frozen custard treats are grouped together in Rita’s branded cups.

An accessible investment

Rita’s provides you with a simple but proven formula that you can follow to build your own successful business.You have the freedom to grow the business at your own pace.

Rita’s startup costs are already accessible, with a startup investment ranging from $150,500 to $440,900. In the business world, especially in the foodservice franchise segment, that’s pretty affordable. Our uncomplicated business model, based on just two core products of Italian Ice and frozen custard, makes Rita’s a great entryway into food franchising.

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about what it takes to join one of the top franchises for veterans, please explore our research pages. You can fill out the form on this page to access our Franchise Information Center, where you’ll find detailed financial results, a breakdown of startup costs and in-depth Q&As with Rita’s franchisees.

A double? Why not a triple?

Rita’s franchise is the perfect business model to stack up into a multi-unit franchise investment for your portfolio

A line of people at a Rita’s window outside on a sunny city street.

Rita’s simple business model and flexible footprints make it easy to to scale a multi-unit operation quickly.

Rita’s franchises welcomes single-unit investors, but did you know our simple operations and flexible footprints make Rita’s a perfect franchise for a multi-unit strategy? Sean Evans of Dallas and his business partner spotted that opportunity before they even signed on the dotted line.

After 20 years in retail, the last 10 as a district manager for Footlocker, Evans had experience juggling multiple locations. And after delving into the Rita’s brand, he and his partner were convinced that signing a multi-unit deal was the smart decision.

“One of the big things that we were deciding on was, do we want to do more than one? Or do we want to just do the one and see what happens? That kind of thing. But you know, through partnership and conversation with Rita’s, we worked different plans,” Evans says. “They came up with different scenarios: “If you decide to do multi units, here’s how it can look.” You know, it wasn’t like five at a time and boom, there you are with everything happening at one time. It was more like, do the first one and then space them out, open them nine months apart and go after the next one. So on and so on.”

Allowing time to build at a moderate pace with intention “just makes more sense,” says Evans, whose first unit opened in Q1 this year. They are planning to open four more Rita’s locations over the next few years.

How to build multi-unit franchises with Rita’s

We have several advantages when it comes to multi-unit investments. Here are some of the components that make it easier for you to scale a three-pack, five-pack or more with Rita’s Italian Ice:

Flexible footprints. Start with your standard store, with walk-up or walk-in service and potential drive-thru service; then engage with your community through catering; and then consider our mobile program that allows you to grow your business outside your four walls and take the product to the consumer.

Multiple revenue streams. You can cater parties or set up at events year-round, particularly if you have a mobile unit. It provides extra revenue streams and is also a great way to do grassroots marketing, especially in territories where Rita’s is new. And if you operate in an area where you choose to open seasonally, you can still save on labor and utilize the off-season for catering and community events. Many franchisees also spend time in the off-season strategizing for opening their next Rita’s unit.

Simple operations. With just two core products and no cooking, our business is easy to run and operates on high margins. That also makes it easier to train employees, and the fun working environment makes Rita’s an employer of choice for teens and young adults.

A branded cup reads Blendini and has colorful candy nuggets in a pile on one side of the cup and a tuft of pale blue cotton candy on the other. A mixture of those two items with vanilla frozen custard can be seen in the cup.

Our two core products, Italian Ice and frozen custard, are the base of all the unique products we sell.

Unique products draw customers. Rita’s Italian Ice gives customers something new to try. That novelty gives you a major leg up when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. We offer frozen custard, the smoother, creamier version of soft-serve ice cream; and Italian ice, the upscale version of a slushy that’s made with water and real fruit. The cost of goods is low, and the concept is unlike other frozen dessert franchises.

Learn more about our multi-unit opportunities

A unique franchise like Rita’s offers an incredible opportunity to scale up and own multiple units. Please explore our research pages to see what our brand has to offer. You can also fill out the form on this page and someone will be in touch with you as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you!