what makes rita’s unique

Forget the old-fashioned ice cream franchise. Rita’s Italian Ice offers a unique value proposition to franchisees and consumers alike.

At Rita’s Italian Ice, we serve two core products in creative combinations: Italian ice and frozen custard. That alone makes us unique among all the frozen dessert and ice cream franchises out there; no one else offers what we offer. But even apart from the product offerings that have generated legions of loyal brand fans since we first opened our doors in 1984, we offer so many advantages as a franchise concept that we have carved out a singular space in the business world, too.

“Rita’s is a food business, of course, but it’s a fun food business that’s simple to operate,” says Linda Chadwick, President & CEO. “You don’t have hoods and fryers and cooktops, you’re serving frozen treats and beverages. And it’s such a happy business; that’s another thing that makes us unique.”

And unlike ice cream franchises, which have become so common that they’re now commoditized, Rita’s maintains a unique position in the $28 billion frozen desserts industry. Our product isn’t sold in stores, and we’re often the only outlet in the market selling Italian ice. We maintain high standards for our products. We make our ices and frozen custard fresh in stores daily, so our guests are assured of freshness. They’re made with real fruit and our dairy and eggs are sourced from a single farm, where we know their standards for quality match ours. 

Our two core products are used in some combination on every item on our menu, from a layered Gelati to the delicious mixed Blendini. It’s not just what we serve that makes Rita’s so unique, but who we are as a company.

Lower operating costs, higher margins

With Italian ice and frozen custard comprising a portion of virtually everything we sell, that helps keep our food costs really low, says Lauriena Borstein, Executive Vice President of Operations. A Rita’s franchise also doesn’t require many employees, and you’ll save a lot of money on labor during the off-season.

“It is a simple business to operate, and those two things really allow us to be a very profitable business,” Borstein says. “Another piece of it is the ability to operate outside your store – to utilize mobile events, to generate additional lines of revenue, but not have the fixed expenses of a brick-and-mortar store.”

With four core models to choose from – a walk-in store, a walk-up store, mobile or special venue – we offer a range of accessible initial investments and make it easier for investors who want to grow quickly.

Seasonality makes it easier to scale

Many Rita’s franchises in colder parts of the country are open seasonally, closing down during the coldest months of the year. Our team of franchising experts helps franchisees determine whether they’re better off operating their stores seasonally or staying open and generating revenue to cover lower, off-season overhead costs.

Those who are open seasonally typically find that customer demand only increases during the off-season. “Because it’s not accessible all year round, it’s something you look forward to and you know that when Rita’s opens, spring is coming, nice weather is coming, summer vacation is coming,” says Maureen Hartlieb, who owns four Rita’s locations in Maryland with her husband, Brian.

“Our product is amazing, our customer service is amazing, so people come here and just have this positive, happy experience with a product that they love. They hear other people talking about it, and how great the custard may be, or the ice may be, and once they try it, then they become loyal fans, too.”

The seasonality of our business also makes it easier for multi-unit franchisees to open new locations. The prep work for opening new stores happens during the off-season, when franchisees are able to devote full attention to development.

Our target franchisee

Ideally, foodservice experience is preferred and multi-unit entrepreneurship is welcomed. Our operations are simple compared to most restaurants. There’s no cooking, so the labor model is much easier to manage. However, we have success stories from franchisees with a wide variety of previous experience.

Albert Holley – Coach Holley to the high school students who passed through his algebra and college prep courses during his teaching career – wrapped up his first season as a Rita’s franchisee in October 2017, and he was more than pleased with his first seven months in business.

The store he purchased from a retiring franchisee ended up with a 25% sales increase over the previous year. Holley attributes that to a lot of new passion and a little old-fashioned strategy.

“The first thing we did was just inject some new energy into it, allowing people to know that it was under new management. The second part was outreach into the community. Partnering with schools, partnering with churches, partnering with local organizations to do some catering and increase sales. It really makes a difference.”

Our ideal franchisee understands the importance of community outreach and is eager to take advantage of the simple business model in order to operate multiple locations. The Rita’s opportunity is perfect for existing restaurant operators who can leverage their existing teams to run additional locations, with minimal staffing and operational complexity, a unique product offering and loyal brand fans.


Find out more about our franchise opportunities 

To learn more about the Rita’s franchise opportunity, fill out the form on this page to access our Franchise Information Center, where you can find detailed financial results, startup costs and more.


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