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!

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 franchise review: Seizing the opportunity in Dallas

Dallas franchisee Sean Evans missed his favorite East Coast brand, so he decided to open up a few of his own in his new hometown.

Dallas has more sunny days than rainy and more hot days than cold. It’s the perfect place for Rita’s Italian Ice to have a large presence. But when Sean Evans and his wife moved from the East Coast to Dallas to be closer to family, he couldn’t help but notice: “Where in the world is Rita’s?”

Now, he and his business partner, a cousin, have signed on to open five shops, with the first location expected to open in early 2019. In this Rita’s franchise review, Evans shares his story.

What were you doing before Rita’s?

My background has been in retail management. I worked for Foot Locker for 20 years; two of those years I worked my way to store manager, and then eight, almost nine years as a manager. Then I spent 10 years as a district manager. So that’s where I kinda got my multi-unit management experience, so to speak. I covered the D.C., Maryland and northern Virginia areas for that company for 10 years, and then we moved to Texas in 2016 to be closer to family.

So, how did you learn about Rita’s?

Well, being from the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic states, Rita’s is a well-known brand there. So when I got here to Texas I just noticed I didn’t see Rita’s. I came home one day and I was talking to my wife and I said, “You know what I haven’t seen since we’ve been here for the last five months?” It was around springtime that it kind of hit me. I was like, “I want some Rita’s.” So we laughed about it and said, “It’d be nice to have one.” And we kind of went on with life.

About four months after that my uncle, who already lives here in Dallas, simply asked me a question. He just said, “Hey, if you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you want to do?” And I gave him my observation about Rita’s, you know, that I hadn’t seen it but that it’s a great product I think would do well in Texas. I think you could open them all year round. I mean, we just had an open conversation about it. Then within a day, little did I know that my uncle already knew that I had a cousin who was interested in investing in the opportunity and loved the idea that I had presented. And he just put us together, and we’ve been walking down this Rita’s road ever since.

We then started to inquire with Rita’s and learned that Rita’s wanted to grow their brand in this part of this country as well. Things started to move forward. So here we are with the rights to five locations.

Four children stand on the grass in the sunshine, with the third girl on the left holding a Rita’s branded cup of frozen custard.

Warm, sunny days and Rita’s Italian Ice are a match made in heaven. That’s why our brand is such a good fit for Dallas.

How closely did you look at the direction of the brand and the leadership? You knew as a consumer you loved the product, but what makes Rita’s a good investment?

One thing that really stood out was the personal touch that Rita’s had once we started to reach out and try to talk to someone. The invited us to tour the headquarters down in Philly. Because for me, Rita’s was easy, but for my cousin — he remembered the brand from when he was younger because he grew up in Philly. But he had kinda lost touch with the brand.

So I believe that the approach they had for someone just trying to find out about the opportunity was fantastic. That gave us peace of mind that the relationship was genuine and that they were really invested in the brand having success. That was big for us. That took us from knowing the brand as consumers to experiencing the brand through a different lens.

What are some of the most valuable things they do to support you?

This is our first franchise opportunity, so we’re really learning as we go along. Every question we’ve had, they have answers. It is a good feeling when the landlord represents something or the broker represents something that, with our infant eyes in this arena, we may not know or catch, but then Rita’s has been on our side and saying, “Hey, you may want to make sure you take a second look at this.”

It’s not just about getting your initial fee and here’s your location and you’re off on your own. At one point, we were doing conference calls every other week. They’re very patient, very partnership-driven to make sure that we feel supported as the franchise owners. So 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.

Were there any objections or concerns that you had going in that they were able to help you overcome?

One that comes to mind was the decision of doing one unit vs. multiple units. Because again, being first-time franchise owners, and even though we had my background in operations and there’s marketing background from the other side, 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 through our partnership and conversations with Rita’s, they came up with different scenarios on how it can look if you decide to do multiple units. You know, it wasn’t like five at a time and boom there you are. It was more like, do the first one and then space them out six or nine months apart, and then go after the next one.

A lineup of products in Rita’s branded red-and-green cups.

What would you say draws customers to Rita’s? What makes people love it so much?

I think it is the intentionality of how close they can come to your favorite flavor. You know, whatever your taste buds are telling you that this flavor is gonna taste like when you order it, when it comes to you in that cup, it’s there.

What’s your personal favorite menu item?

For me, it started off as lemon. And then it branched out into blue raspberry. But I’m gonna tell you mango is now my favorite Rita’s flavor. And I didn’t even know that mango was Rita’s leading flavor. It wasn’t until I got to Texas that I realized mango was my new favorite.

Learn more

You can explore more information about our franchise opportunity on 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!