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 creates 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!

Rita’s Italian Ice could be one of your best bets for 2019

Entrepreneur magazine names frozen desserts as Top Franchise Category, and we’re already one of the best frozen dessert franchises around

A hand holds a Rita’s branded cup with frozen custard swirl on top in front of a Rita’s store.

Frozen desserts are hot. Entrepreneur magazine proclaims the frozen desserts as one of the Top 10 Franchise Categories of 2019.

Entrepreneur magazine has named the frozen desserts segment one of the magazine’s Top 10 Franchise Categories for 2019. The magazine based its ratings by studying industry segments where a lot of franchise growth is occurring.

“Everyone loves dessert, and the category offers prospective franchisees a wide variety of options, including ice cream, frozen yogurt, ices, ice pops, and custard,” Entrepreneur writes. While the magazine also notes that frozen dessert novelties like rolled ice cream are also experiencing a boom, Rita’s has a competitive edge because we’re a well-established concept.

Rita’s truly stands out in the booming frozen desserts category. Bottom line: This is a fun business. It’s a business that’s easy to scale, simple to operate and works either seasonally or year-round, depending on your territory.

The history of the best frozen dessert franchise

Since our humble beginnings as home-based Italian ice business in Philadelphia, Rita’s has developed a strong fan base that has allowed us to grow to more than 575 locations in the United States. Franchise owners in our northeastern markets enjoy the seasonality of the business, which allows them to spend the offseason planning growth strategies and managing the opening of new locations. In warmer climates like Texas and Florida, operators stay open year-round to maximize their revenue earning opportunities.

See where territories are available.

Why Rita’s could be right for you

Three cups of frozen treats with cookie and candy mix-ins in red, white and green are in Rita’s blended cups that say Blendini on them in big black script against a blue swirl.

Blendinis are a delicious blend of our two core products plus fun mix-ins. The unique product offering at Rita’s is a big draw for customers.

Consider our offerings: Italian ice and frozen custard. From those two core products, we have spun out an inventive menu full of creative offerings like the Blendini, which is a combination of Italian ice, frozen custard and delicious mix-ins like crushed Oreo® cookies or candy bars, and the Gelati, which is a dessert of layered Italian ice and frozen custard in flavors of the customer’s choosing.

The streamlined product offering makes operations a breeze, and the simple operations make it easier to hire and train your staff. In addition, our product offerings are so unique that they become a big part of the consumer value proposition.

Learn more

To explore whether this might be the right business opportunity for you, fill out the form on this page to start a conversation. We look forward to hearing from you!

Rita’s franchisees offer up their positive results

From developing young leaders to working in a fun business, Rita’s owners share why they love owning our frozen dessert franchise

Rita’s Italian Ice is a great frozen dessert franchise for a lot of reasons, but sometimes you want to hear more than just the corporate line. When you’re looking into making a six-figure investment, you want to hear the truth straight from those behind the counter. During the due diligence process, you will talk to existing franchisees. Here’s a look at what you can expect to hear:

Three branded Rita’s cups feature, from left to right, a cherry Italian Ice, a chocolate Blendini with cookie bits mixed in, and a lemon Gelato with a swirl of vanilla frozen custard on top.

Rita’s menu is made up of a blend of two core products, Italian ice and frozen custard, making operations simple to run.

The operating costs can be pretty low compared to other work. Where your payroll’s pretty low, your cost of goods is pretty low, and when it comes to the food, it’s less perishable than most items. The shelf life is pretty good and you can get up and running with minimal overhead.

— Tom Kowal, multi-unit owner in New Jersey

I think customers come because Rita’s has a high quality product that tastes good. The frozen custard is an alternative to ice cream but it’s a really good, creamy product. If you have a good location with good service, people enjoy your treat team members. I’ve got a lot of good kids that I think people like interacting with and so they continue to come partly because of that, I believe, and partly because of the product.

— Albert Holley, multi-unit owner in Maryland

Rita’s is great for military guys because they love following policies and processes. With franchises and the way the operations are set up, you really just follow what has been established to help you open up a store. I would advise veterans strongly to look at the Rita’s franchise model because of the discounts that are offered to veterans and the potential for sales, and also having the opportunity to make people smile is a lot of fun.

— Rob Tarr, Area Developer for Alabama

The profit margin is very good compared to other contracts that I’ve been in. The product is a premium product. And people know the brand and love the product.

— Craig Dimes, multi-brand franchisee in Delaware

A group of kids, including a girl hugging a teddy bear, stand in line at a Rita’s walk-up window.

Rita’s is a good investment because compared to some of the other businesses out there, it is generally a fun atmosphere that you’re working in with kids or younger people. The customers or guests that come to the window, as I explain to my kids that work for me on the treat team, you’re not going to find people any nicer. 99 out of 100 people that come to the window have a smile on their face or are positive when they come up to the window. They know what they’re going to get. You just want to keep it that way. You want them to leave with a smile on their face. There aren’t a lot of businesses out there like that.

— Mike Sodi, multi-unit owner in Pennsylvania

Even though we are new to the franchising arena, they’re not taking advantage of that. That is a very satisfying feeling when you can feel like the corporate side of the franchise is also in your corner and not just trying to take your investment and wish you the best.

— Sean Evans, developing multi-unit owner in Texas

Learn more

Whether you want something simple to operate, something that’s easy to scale or just something that’s fun, our frozen dessert franchise could be right for you. To learn more about the Rita’s business opportunity, 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.