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!

Rita’s Franchise Review: Harry Jones of Suwanee, GA

Professional caterer finds Rita’s catering has been key to his success

As the longtime owner of Katie’s Catering in the Atlanta suburb of Suwanee, Georgia, Harry Jones is no stranger to the foodservice business. So when he was looking for a side business around 2007 and attended a Rita’s Italian Ice Franchise seminar in Atlanta, it seemed like an ideal choice. Today, Harry owns a Rita’s near his catering business and is the president of the Franchisee Advisory Council. In this Rita’s franchise review, he talks about his journey to ownership and what it takes to succeed.

HARRY JONES

What was it about Rita’s that made you think this would be a good fit with your primary business?

The product itself is just outstanding, and that’s really what we got hooked on. The Suwanee shop was the first Rita’s shop in the state of Georgia, and it’s still the only shop in the state that’s owned by the original owner.

I know one of the things you do with your Rita’s is a lot of catering. How has that affected your business?
Yeah, we do a significant amount of catering for Rita’s. We specifically go out and target the market in terms of Facebook posts, and on my Katie’s Catering menu, the back page is dedicated to Rita’s. So we do a lot of flyers that we pass out at all of the lunches we do.

It’s incredibly easy to add this revenue stream to your Rita’s if you have the systems in place going into it, so you have a game plan and a pricing structure. Rita’s really did a tremendous job this year of setting guidelines and standards. They actually hired an outside consultant for the first time to look at what everyone’s doing and to put a standard catering practice in place. And so for the first time ever, you literally can use the tools that Rita’s provides and grow your business to suit that catering participation.

Do you have an estimate of what percentage of revenue your catering provides?
So far, year-to-date, our catering represents 5% of my total bid.

Have you been doing catering all along with Rita’s or is it a new line for you?
We have. That literally was my background. And so I think we always thought that being in an outlying market, you have to do what the customer wants if you’re going to be successful. So, when we had an opportunity to do catering in-shop or people wanted us to come out to their location, we figured out how we were going to make that happen. It’s my responsibility to try to make sure that my shop was successful. Especially in an outlying market.

What kinds of events do people hire Rita’s to cater?
We’ve done everything from anniversaries to doctors offices.

How do you feel right now about the direction of the brand?
Overall from a marketing perspective and an operations perspective, I think this is the best that I’ve seen it in 12 years.

The senior leadership team really has a vision of where they want to go and how they want to get there. Linda Chadwick, the CEO, comes from a franchising background. She understands that for Rita’s to make money, the shops have to make money.

I understand you’re the president of the Franchisee Advisory Council. Can you tell me a little bit about how that council is structured and what you do?
The board itself is made up of nine franchisees that are elected by their peers to be the representatives of the franchisees to the franchising company. But we’re also advisors to the company. When there’s new marketing material or something new in operations, they don’t just change it. We are kind of like the beta testers; we get the first look at it. That way we can tell if we need to add or enhance something to make it work better for franchise owners, and corporate will listen and take our suggestions under advisement.

How much interaction do you have with other franchisees who are not on the council? How much chance do they get to provide feedback?
As much as or as little as they want. We have an intranet, a CoolNet franchisee website, and all of the FAC’s phone numbers and emails are listed on there.

So, if someone has an issue or a problem, all people have to do is pick up the phone and call and let me know, hey, this is an issue, this is a problem. It would be difficult for us to call 575 franchise shop locations and ask them how things are going, but if they have a question or a problem, they should pick up a phone and call someone.

What kind of experience does someone need to be successful with a Rita’s?
I don’t think you necessarily have to have any specific type of experience. I do think you have to be able and willing to work hard, though. I am a firm believer that Rita’s is a hands-on business, not an investment business.

When you first start off, you have to work in your business. No matter what your business is, if it’s consumer-related, people want to know that the owner’s there.

From a customer perspective, what is it that draws customers to Rita’s? Consumers have a lot of choices when it comes to frozen treats. Why Rita’s? Why do they come?
I think there’s two main reasons. The primary one is the product’s terrific, and the No. 1 reason why my shop is so successful is that we have a tremendous team of young women and men who treat the people how they want to be treated. So they get terrific service, and let’s face it, the consumer is always going to go where they get something they want and they’re treated right.

What would you say makes Rita’s a good investment as opposed to another brand?
Again, I have to go back to the product. The product itself is just terrific.

And knowing what you know now, if you were just starting out today, would you still become a Rita’s Franchisee? If so, why?
Yes. I would. People love dessert, right? So they feel like it is a reward when they treat themselves and I think that of all the other dessert companies, I really, truly believe that we have the best product in the marketplace.

Is there anything else you think a prospective owner should know?
You have to be hands-on, and I think it’s important when you open a business, no matter what the business is, it’s imperative that you keep your build-out costs in line.

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 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.