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.

Multi-unit owners offer secrets to success with Rita’s

Rita’s multi-unit owners share what they’ve learned about successfully juggling different locations

A man in a purple tuxedo spins plates on six poles. By Henrikbothe | Wikimedia Commons

Keeping up with more than one franchise can seem, at times, like that old plate-spinning act: You spin one plate atop a pole, move on to the next and the next, and by the time you get your last plate spinning, the first one needs attention again before it shatters to the floor in a hundred pieces. But it doesn’t have to be like that, as Rita’s multi-unit owners can attest.

With the right franchisor, multi-unit owners will have the support in place to help them successfully manage all facets of their business.

Get your systems in place

Franchisee Tom Kowal owns four Rita’s units in New Jersey. Having worked in the business since he was a teenager and having bought his first unit right out of college, Kowal knows the brand inside and out. He emphasizes the importance of a strong management system to juggle multiple locations.

“Because I have four locations and I can’t be in every one at once, I have to have four managers,” Kowal says. “So, somebody is really there handling the daily operations and I’m typically coordinating with my mom or my sister, who’s a general manager, for what has to go on in the day.”

Kowal plans out his orders, arranges for inventory, firms up his marketing schedule and looks at staffing for upcoming events, with the help of his mother and sister. Typically, he has a serious planning session at least once a week.

“Because every day is different and every store is different,” he says. “For instance, our store in Clinton (NJ) is the only store we have along a major highway, so during rush hour we’re dead. Our store in Flemington (NJ) is kind of set in the path of rush hour so they’re always busy at that time, because everyone’s just coming right out of work and we’re right there.”

The franchising support team at Rita’s is with you every step of the way, making sure you’ve arranged for the resources you need to build your successful business as a Rita’s multi-unit owner.

Getting the word out

Sean Evans, a multi-unit owner who is developing five locations with his business-partner cousin in Dallas, grew up with the Rita’s brand back East, so he didn’t need to be sold on how unique the Italian ice franchise is. For Evans, part of his success will be based on how he translates his passion for the brand to a new audience.

“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.”

Rita’s provides detailed go-to-market strategies, checklists, and marketing calendars to help franchisees effectively build awareness and attract customers.

Learn more about our multi-unit opportunities

You can also explore more about the Rita’s franchise opportunity on our research pages, or fill out a short, no-obligation form to access to our proprietary Franchise Information Center. We look forward to hearing from you!

Rita’s vs. Häagen-Dazs: Which frozen dessert franchise should you buy?

As the larger of the two franchises, we offer the resources and support of a more established market presence, and we still have plenty of prime territory available

Four Rita’s branded cups of frozen treats are pictured on a red and white striped tablecloth, with Oreos, vanilla wafers, strawberries and peanut butter cups. Words above the image read Stuffed Blendini | Choose a Filling | For Extra Yum. Above each cup are the words Fudge, Strawberry, Caramel and Peanut Butter. On the far left side is a white circle above one cup that reads Choose from 4 Flavors.

Rita’s serves up an inventive menu of frozen treats and beverages made from just two core products: Italian ice and frozen custard.

Rita’s Italian Ice holds a unique position in the $28 billion frozen desserts industry, serving two core products: Italian ice and frozen custard. Unlike ice cream franchises, which are so common they’ve become commoditized, Rita’s offers something no one else does in the franchising space. That immediately differentiates ourselves from competitors in the frozen desserts segment. Today, we take a head-to-head look at Rita’s vs. the Häagen-Dazs franchise so you can examine for yourself both the similarities and some important differences between the two brands.

A unique franchise concept

As a Rita’s owner, you’ll quickly be able to build up a base of dedicated fans. Our Italian ices, made fresh in stores, and our unbelievably rich and creamy frozen custard have a tendency to create fans for life. If you’ve tried it, you already know. If you haven’t tasted it yet, just wait. You’ll see what we’re talking about.

You can choose from many viable territories to open your Rita’s shop, from areas that allow you to introduce Rita’s to a new market to regions close to more established markets where Rita’s is already a known and beloved brand. We offer flexible footprints in addition to expansion opportunities through mobile unit and catering sales. It’s a simple business model that’s easy to operate.

Rita’s vs. Häagen-Dazs

Rita’s Häagen-Dazs
Franchising since 1989 Mid 1970s
Total U.S. units 600+ 200+
Initial investment $172,225-$430,900 $164,158 – $542,408
Minimum liquidity $100,000 $80,000
Minimum net worth $300,000 $200,000
Franchise fee $30,000 $30,000


3 reasons to open a Rita’s franchise

Our business model is simple. 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.

Rita’s is easy to scale. 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. Within these service models, you can find the right avenue to grow at your own pace.

Unique products draw customers. While ice cream and frozen yogurt have many competitors, Rita’s 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. We make our products fresh in stores daily, combining them in different ways to come up with a variety of fun, cravable desserts. Rita’s is a fun, happy business.

Learn more about Rita’s

We hope you’ll continue to explore our research pages to see what our brand has to offer you. Ultimately, only you can decide who your winner is in the Rita’s vs. Häagen-Dazs competition. If you’d like to talk to someone on our franchise development team, just fill out this short form and someone will be in touch with you as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you!

Higher margins and simple operations help Rita’s owners expand with mobile units, venues

With simple operations and high margins, mobile business and special venues offer Rita’s owners a big Italian ice business opportunity in a small package

Rita’s franchisees can expand their business in a number of ways, like food trucks, Express Units and mobile carts. And the carts offer plenty of room for further growth.

“We’re in a local university with our cart business, and we started with one cart there. Now we have six carts,” says Brett Hrovat, who owns two standalone stores and a cart business in Columbia, SC. “These days, everyone’s taking their food to the customer, and that’s something we’re really doing more of.”

A young girl in glasses and a multi-colored striped shirt sits and blue shorts sits on a bright red bench, enjoying a blue Italian ice in a Rita’s cup.

Mobile business helps franchisees go where the guests are, such as going to a park and serving up refreshing Italian ice on hot summer days.

Mobile and venues help you go where your guests are

With carts or food trucks, you can take your business nearly anywhere, helping expand your business beyond the four walls of your store and reaching Rita’s customers in locations or venues where they’re sure to be craving a refreshing Italian ice or frozen custard.

Any Rita’s franchisee can add mobile carts to their operation. 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. We have franchisees who operate carts or Express Units in arenas, water parks and youth sports facilities, which can all provide steady business.

By going out to your guests, you can also bring more of them into your storefront. Special venues and mobile business can serve as a valuable marketing tool. Not only do they serve guests in the perfect place for a sweet treat, they also introduce the brand to new guests who can become loyal fans.

“I’m in the football stadium, the baseball stadium, the basketball and hockey arena, which is open and operating all winter, I’m in the zoo and the convention center,” says Philadelphia multi-unit owner Brad Leventhal. “I think it’s a great marketing tool to be in venues.”

It’s also a great way to integrate your business into your neighborhood by hosting or going out to community events, youth sports games and fundraisers for local causes.

“We’ll do special events; we support a lot of local charities. There are three children’s hospitals in the area, so we’ll go out to them and supply ice to the kids,” says Leventhal. “It’s fun and it’s rejuvenating to give back to the community like that.”

Four Rita’s Italian ices are arrayed against a white background. In front is a red ice, to the left is a light green ice, to the right is a yellow ice and in the back is a light blue ice.

A simpler menu helps make carts and special venue locations a lower-cost way for current franchisees to expand their Italian ice business opportunities.


Simpler offerings for a high-margin Italian ice business opportunity

Adding mobile units or special venues can be a simpler way to grow for franchisees who want to expand their involvement with our Italian ice business opportunity, but who may not be ready to add an entire new store to their portfolio. For multi-unit owners, it offers a way to diversify their interests without having to explore and invest in a whole new brand.

“One of the nice things is that your store acts as a home base,” says San Jose, CA, franchisee Humza Chowdhry. Chowdhry owns a diverse array of Rita’s locations; he has a standalone Rita’s store, a location in a sports arena, a food truck, a cart in a local water park and he’s opening a kiosk in a shopping mall. “Even if you only have one standalone store, this gives you the opportunity to multiply your revenue streams from that one location.”

You may not even have to hire staff specifically for your carts, instead tapping into the team members you know and trust from your existing stores. Carts have a simplified product offering and low operating costs, which helps you add revenue at a higher profit margin.

“With the mobile carts, the operations really come down to getting the product in the carts and getting it to the next venue,” says Hrovat. “Once you get it there, the execution of the rest is pretty simple. I see higher margins in cart business than in-store business, and if you have multiple stores, it’s much easier to handle inventory and you can schedule your current employees to work the cart business, so it makes staffing a lot easier.”

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about the growing Italian ice business 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.


Rita’s: A business for all seasons

Whether their Rita’s operates on a seasonal basis or is open year-round, our franchisees are finding ways to meet — and sometimes exceed — their business goals

For customers and franchisees, we believe in choosing what’s right for you. That’s why Rita’s franchises can be open seasonally or year-round, and our franchisees love having options to meet their own personal business goals.

Many Rita’s owners 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. But as we’ve grown, we’ve also helped franchisees who choose to stay open and keep revenue flowing in the winter months. Whichever model you prefer, Rita’s could be a great business opportunity.

Two women in sweaters, jeans and boots face each other over a high-top table while talking and eating cups of frozen custard. A wall behind them is covered in wallpaper adorned with names of Rita’s products, including Blendini, Frozen Custard and Rita’s Italian Ice.

Maureen and Brian Hartlieb are operating one of their Rita’s locations on a year-round basis for the first time in 2017-18. So far, they’ve had a steady stream of appreciative customers.


Shorter lines, lower costs

Jill Harp’s Baltimore franchise is open Thursdays through Sundays in the winter months. While she has a full staff of 18 or so at the height of the summer season, her general manager handles all the shifts from November through March.


“I just have one unit that I want to grow as much as I can, and the profit margin is really high,” Harp says. “Initially, I thought it would be great to be off a few months out of the year, but a few years in I thought, why not just open a few days during the winter to help cover my fixed costs?”


Maureen Hartlieb and her husband Brian own four Rita’s locations in Maryland and part of a Rita’s Food Truck, and they’re excited to try their first year-round location this season. Even on a chilly day in November, a steady stream of customers came in to order treats, a great sign for their new winter hours.


“For me, it is going to be a better opportunity to get into a lot of our catering, to reach more people, because we’re going to be open when there are school concerts and other events going on. When they start basketball this winter, we can now be the place that everybody comes to hang out at after games and other events,” she says.


A woman’s hand holds up a Rita’s Blendini branded cup against a blue sky filled with white puffy clouds on a sunny day.

When a seasonal Rita’s opens up again in the spring, franchisees almost always report long lines and excited guests waiting to order their favorite Rita’s treat.


Flexible footprints offer even more choice

Rita’s offers a variety of different service models to choose from in several affordable investment ranges. Our high levels of franchisee support and ease of operations make our business perfect for both multi-unit and single-unit owners. Rita’s provides you an excellent opportunity to meet your professional goals in a supportive setting and a happy business.

Learn more about the Rita’s opportunity

If you’d like to learn more about the growing Italian ice business 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.