Entrepreneur magazine names Rita’s among 2019’s Top Franchises for Veterans

See why Rita’s makes perfect sense for veterans seeking a transition into civilian careers

A little girl clutches a small American flag while she hugs her father, who is wearing combat fatigues. A large American flag waves in the background on the right-hand side of the photo.

Entrepreneur magazine ranked Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard at No. 41 among the 150 Top Franchises for Veterans. If you or someone you know is a veteran looking for a smart business opportunity, this is another great reason to consider owning a Rita’s franchise.

Entrepreneur compiles the annual rankings based on a number of criteria. While, as the magazine notes, “hundreds” of franchises offer incentives to veterans such as discounted franchise fees, not all are worthy of inclusion in the rankings.

How the franchises were ranked

In order to determine the best franchises for veterans, Entrepreneur did a deeper dive. They sent a survey to all of the companies that offer veterans discounts and then analyzed those results.

“From there, 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 2019 Franchise 500,” the magazine wrote.

Why vets are a great fit for Rita’s

Running a Rita’s franchise requires skill sets that are commonly acquired and honed during military service. Taking a leadership role while also maintaining the ability to work within the structure of a franchise business and being a team player is key to success, with Rita’s or any franchise.

In addition, running a Rita’s franchise requires a strong work ethic and a desire to help others develop their leadership skills. Most employees are teens and young adults, and franchisees who enjoy motivating and inspiring future leaders will find Rita’s a good fit.

Rita’s is proud of our men and women who have served our country, and as such we are a 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.

We want to do our part in making it easier for veterans to build new civilian careers for themselves as entrepreneurs. We offer an accessible startup investment as well as simple operations, which don’t require any expensive, high-maintenance stoves, ovens or fryers.

The opportunity to own a Rita’s is the opportunity to run your own business with the backing of experts and a proven track record of success. Our franchise owners come from all walks of life. However, with honorably discharged veterans, we already know you’re capable of following a roadmap to success.

Own a Rita’s

Rita’s offers a 20% discount off our initial franchise fee to all veterans who were honorably discharged and are qualified franchise candidates. Ours is a unique franchise opportunity with 600+ units nationwide and plenty of areas available. To learn more, please explore our website. 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.

How we help you broaden your customer base

From mobile units to catering, Rita’s offers alternate revenue streams that help boost customer traffic and make the most of your franchise investment

Two lines of people in winter coats stretch across a parking lot in front of a Rita's Italian Ice franchise.

Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard is the ideal franchise for people who want to operate seasonally, because in most colder climates we shut down for the winter. Franchisees can build up demand, and sure enough every First Day of Spring, Rita’s shops tend to see long lines of hungry guests waiting for their fix.

But for those who are located in warmer territories or simply want to make the most of their franchise investment during the winter months, Rita’s has several ways to help them keep the revenue flowing.

Reach more people

Some franchisees who are closed during the winter months still leave the door open for special events and catering. They can promote catering for school events like concerts and basketball games, for office Christmas parties and other community events. Adding food trucks or even mobile carts is a relatively low-cost way to expand your reach.

Franchisees can choose to take carts or trucks where the guests are, work with special venues to provide carts as a regular offering to their guests, or open fixed-location Express Units in special venues. Some of our franchise owners operate carts or Express Units in arenas, water parks and youth sports facilities, which can all provide steady business.

By taking Rita’s to the people, you can generate more traffic for your shop without dipping too far into your capital for another franchise investment on a second build-out. Special venues and mobile business are valuable marketing tools, introducing the brand to new guests who can become loyal fans.

Save on labor and operating costs

Many franchisees use their social media channels to show guests they’re still available for catering, fundraising and bulk orders, or to let them know that the shop will be open for limited winter hours on weekends. These tactics help cover fixed costs like rent while still reducing payroll.

Carts obviously have a simplified product offering and lower operating costs, which helps franchisees generate revenue at higher profit margins than in-store business. Inventory is easier to handle and staffing is simple, too.

Maintaining a skeleton crew also means franchisees don’t have to go out and hire additional staff specifically for carts and mobile units. Instead, they can utilize the team members they already know and trust.

Why Rita’s is a great franchise investment

We sell Italian ice and frozen custard, and everything on the menu is made from some combination of those two items. Rita’s is a unique franchise opportunity with 600+ units across the country, and we still have many prime territories available.

Rita’s is a happy business that requires no food franchise background and is much simpler to operate than most restaurant businesses. Our startup costs range from $175,500 – $435,000, and we offer opportunities for both multi-unit and single-unit investors. Franchise candidates need $100,000 in liquid capital and a net worth of at least $300,000.

Get started today

If you’d like to learn more about Rita’s, we’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the form on this page to access more information about the franchise investment including startup costs and more. You can also discover more about our brand by exploring our website.

Rita’s Italian Ice is named to Franchise Times 200+ franchise ranking

We’ve got a unique brand, a history of success and a simple business model

Rita’s Italian Ice franchise has been included in the annual Franchise Times Top 200+ ranking based on total global sales performance. Thanks to our unique product line, we already stand out in a world of ice cream franchises, and it’s nice to be recognized for our performance as well.

The annual Franchise Times Top 200+ list “is the result of a five-month research and reporting effort that leads to the most credible and objective franchise ranking available,” said Franchise Times Editor Laura Michaels. Franchise Times published the full list in its October issue, “ranking the 500 largest franchise systems in the United States by global systemwide sales, based on the previous year’s performance.”

Franchise Times Top 200+ logo






Ice cream franchises are a dime a dozen. Frozen yogurt franchises, too. But when you start counting up the Italian Ice and frozen custard franchises, well, let’s just say you won’t really need all your fingers.

We stand out as a happy business, of course, but we stand alone inside that special franchising niche because of our uniqueness of product. We’re very popular in our core Northeastern markets, but we’re also expanding successfully in warmer territories where Rita’s operators can stay open year-round.

A rainbow of Rita’s ices in branded cups against a green wall that reads, Ice|Custard|Happiness.

Why Rita’s is investment-worthy

As food franchises go, Rita’s is at the top of the no-hassle list. We offer simple operations that don’t even require restaurant experience. Rita’s bases all menu items on two concoctions, frozen custard and Italian ice. There are no cooktops, no ovens, no complicated recipes and no inventory-control and food-waste headaches. Franchisees hire mostly teenagers to run the place.

Rita’s is a seasonal business in many territories with colder winters, such as our core markets in the Northeast, and that gives our operators plenty of downtime to plan their next Rita’s opening or even spend time with loved ones. Every year, when we hold our Grand Re-Opening Day in the spring, people in those markets line up — sometimes in the early spring snow — for their first taste of their favorite reminder that spring and summer are coming.

We’ve been going strong for 35 years, and we’ve got a cult following you tend not to see in the major ice cream franchises. Yes, everyone loves a frozen dessert, but there’s something truly special about Rita’s.

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about the Rita’s franchise opportunity, 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 website.

Rita’s Franchise Review: Mitch Cove of Philadelphia

He’s our OG franchisee, the longest-standing franchise owner in the system, and he loves where he sees the brand going today

Mitch Cove and Linda Chadwick at the 2019 IFA ceremony where Mitch was named Franchisee of the Year.

Mitch Cove and Linda Chadwick at the 2019 IFA ceremony, where Mitch was named Franchisee of the Year.

Meet Mitch Cove. He was recently named Franchisee of the Year by the International Franchise Association (IFA). We’ve always known him to be an exemplary businessman during his decades with Rita’s Italian Ice, and we’re proud of his latest honor. Mitch has seen a lot of changes in his 30 years as a Rita’s franchise owner. Leadership changes, ups and downs. Today he’s running two shops in the greater Philadelphia area, one in Bucks County and the other in Rockledge. Mitch and his wife, Eileen, are happy with their two locations, which opened in the early ’90s, and loving the new energy they’re seeing in the brand under the leadership of CEO Linda Chadwick. He tells his story in this Rita’s Franchise Review.

What were you doing before you became a Rita’s franchisee?

I was a CPA working with a public accounting firm in Philadelphia. In fact, I was a junior partner of a firm and my wife was an assistant manager at a retail clothing store called The Limited.


And what made the two of you think, “Hey, let’s go start our own business?”

I had no knowledge or experience, in any business of any kind, nor did any of my family members or parents, grandparents, nobody was ever in business for themselves. So there really wasn’t any model to follow. I was actually just looking for something as a supplement to our income.


And my wife saw through an ad that Rita’s was franchising and they were having a meeting about the opportunity, and she brought it to my attention. I thought it might be interesting, so I went to the meeting and I liked what I heard and jumped in with both feet.


I take it you were already familiar with the brand itself?

I think I’d had it once. My wife may have been slightly more familiar… There were shops out there, but not a lot of brand recognition at that time. But I was familiar with the product. Water ice, as we call it here.


So, what was it at the time that made you just jump in?

They were challenging times, with the economy. It was the late ’80s and the economy was struggling. Our firm was struggling. Our clients were struggling to pay their bills, so the cash flow wasn’t great. It was kind of, right thing at the right time. It just seemed like an interesting opportunity.


I didn’t know anything about the business or the retail business, the frozen dessert business. But I liked what they were proposing and they had a good, strong system and a good product and I took a shot. I’m not risk averse in what I do. It was risky, but you know, at that time, my wife and I were relatively newly married and no children. It was just the two of us. It was a calculated risk.


If you were just getting into business today, what about Rita’s today would make you want to jump in and invest?

Well now, 35 years later, it’s a proven brand. A strong brand. A great product, really one of the best out there. I think our soft serve product is probably the best out there. I’ve never tasted anything better. It’s an iconic Philadelphia brand — and I’m born and raised in Philadelphia, so I completely get the whole experience of Rita’s. 


The seasonality is also a huge attraction. Having months off to regroup is not a bad thing if you can manage your cash flow properly. And knowing what I know now, I have a lot of confidence in the current leadership group at Rita’s, especially the CEO, Linda Chadwick. They’re really experienced in operations and really digging down deep into how this business works and what makes it successful and what we need to do to grow and to run a better business. In all areas, whether it’s operations, cost of goods, marketing, PR, reaching out to our guests, making better experiences. 


So it’s a good time to get into this — and I can share this with others, because I’ve been through the good times and the bad times, the good leadership groups and the not-so-good leadership groups. So, I would absolutely do it again. I’d do it all over again.


Since Linda’s been at the helm, is there anything that Rita’s corporate has been doing for you that has helped improve your bottom line?

Yeah. Rita’s current leadership immediately embraced our marketing. We have a regional marketing co-op and we’ve been able to do a lot of very impactful marketing and advertising programs, and she’s been very supportive of that, giving us whatever resources we need, empowering staff to get involved with our marketing and local events and really giving us the support and the resources that we’ve always needed. And that’s given us more of an opportunity to continue building the brand in our market and to get out there into the community. Prior to Linda becoming our CEO and getting involved, the responsibility was mostly dropped upon the shoulders of the individual franchisees.


For me, that’s been exciting and heartwarming to know that she really understands what it’s going to take to make this company continue to succeed and grow. 


So you’re thinking of adding another unit?

That’s our goal and our plan. That’s one of the beauties about having a seasonal business. It allows you to focus on how to grow your business. When you’re shut down, you can really take the time to develop a plan and then start to put into place and get it going after a few months. 


After all these years, what’s the most satisfying thing about being a Rita’s franchise owner?

For me, there’s a couple. One, it’s really a family business, which allows us to involve not only our spouses, but our children. My parents were involved in the business. My in-laws, my cousins. It’s a great business and it’s a fun business to be able to share and have your family involved with as well. My children had the experience of working in the business and working hard and learning what responsibility is like. 


But one of the greatest thrills for me is really having been able to work with a lot of teenagers. I’ve had maybe a thousand or more teenagers come through my ranks over the last 30 years. And to see them get their first job and experience that. Some of them take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given to them and really just grow and evolve as people and then go on, after they leave Rita’s, to become exceptional adults and parents with children and spouses. Just go on and do great things. It’s really neat, to think that we had some small part in their growth and development.


It’s a great first job and a first step for a young person. So I’d like to think we’re contributing a little bit to the development of our people.


Is there anything that you would want a prospective buyer to know about the Rita’s opportunity?

Yes. If you’re interested in getting involved, make sure you’re going to be willing and able to work in the business, learn the business, understand the business and be there, at least in the first few years. Because it’s not like most other businesses. It’s a connection business. Every day is a different story, a different experience. You know, it’s not like a McDonald’s. It’s not like many other businesses.


The other thing that I really appreciate about Rita’s current leadership team and the direction is that they have that same approach to interviewing potential franchise candidates. And it’s great that they understand that it’s going to require engagement by the franchisee for it to be successful.

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about Rita’s, we’d love to hear from you. Please fill out the form on this page to download our free Franchise Information Report. You can also discover more about our brand, including a breakdown of startup costs and more Rita’s franchise reviews, by exploring our website.

16 new shops and counting

Rita’s has opened a slew of franchises since June, and our brand is picking up momentum

Two men stand in front of a Rita’s shop in a strip mall. The man on the left is holding a chocolate cone. A sign above the shop reads “Rita’s” and “Italian Ice” and “Frozen Custard.”

Coral Springs, FL, mayor Scott Brook and franchisee Courtney Todman stand in front of Todman’s new Rita’s shop.

Rita’s is starting off strong in autumn after opening 16 Italian ice franchises from June through September. We’re proud of our steady, strategic growth and continued interest from experienced entrepreneurs who want to open their own Rita’s shops.

Here’s a list of our most recent openings:

  • Dutch Wonderland amusement park in Lancaster, PA
  • Reno, NV
  • Lake Buena Vista, FL
  • Logan Township, NJ
  • Kennett Square, PA
  • West Jordan, UT
  • Lewistown, PA
  • Hilliard, OH
  • Coral Springs, FL
  • Essex, MD
  • Holland, MI
  • Ocala, FL
  • Elkridge, MD
  • State Farm Arena, Atlanta, GA
  • Arlington, TX
  • 51st Street in Brooklyn, NY

Our 35-year-old brand has long been a cult favorite in the Philadelphia area, and our popularity is spreading as we grow our presence across the country.

Two men stand in front of a Rita’s shop in a strip mall. A sign above the shop reads “Rita’s” and ”Italian Ice” and “Frozen Custard.”

Sean and Jerry Evans stand in front of their new Rita’s Italian Ice franchise in Arlington, Texas.

How our Italian ice franchises stand out

Ice cream franchises are a dime a dozen. But an opportunity to sell Italian ices and frozen custard is unique in the $28 billion frozen desserts industry, which is one reason our 600-unit chain of frozen custard and Italian ice franchises is expanding nationwide.

Italian ice and frozen custard form the base for all of the treats on our menu, which helps simplify operations and keep our food costs low, both in terms of inventory and food waste. Catering and mobile units provide franchisees with the flexibility to create additional revenue streams by taking our delicious frozen treats to the people.

The seasonal aspect of our business — franchises in colder climates are often closed during the winter months — allows franchise owners the opportunity to use the downtime to strategize unit growth and revenue potential. Rita’s is ideal for both multi-unit operators and single-unit owners.

Learn more about the business opportunity

Are there any Rita’s Italian Ice franchises near you? Don’t you think there should be? If you’d like to learn more about our available territories and franchise opportunities, please explore our research pages or fill out the form on this page to request more information. We look forward to hearing from you!