Rita’s Franchise Review: John Vanore of New Jersey & Pennsylvania
John Vanore has been a Rita’s franchisee since 1999. Find out why he’s stayed so long, and why he had the No. 1 performing store in 2019.
John Vanore works really hard for 7 months, and for the remaining 5, his time is his own. That’s what a 12-month period looks like after 20 years as a Rita’s franchisee, and it’s a big part of the reason he has stayed with the system as long as he has. John’s 3 shops in Folsom, Pennsylvania, and the New Jersey towns of Medford and Blackwood, all within the greater Philadelphia area, are open seasonally, like many Rita’s franchises, and that affords him a freedom he’s grown to love.
“I was in a frozen dessert business prior to Rita’s,” he says. “I worked 12 months a year and put a lot of time in and didn’t have the reward that I get working seven months with Rita’s.” In this Rita’s franchise review, John talks about his success and why he thinks Rita’s is still a great investment in 2020.
Over the years, you’ve had some pretty good sales increases. What do you attribute that to?
In the 20 years that I’ve been in the system, I may have had one or two down years, but most of the time my sales have increased every year. I’ve had some years where the transactions were down a little bit, but this year was just an incredible year. I mean, every one of my stores hit all-time highs. Not only for overall sales but also for transactions. I had double-digit increases in all my stores percentage-wise, and it’s been my most profitable year in the Rita’s system. Rita’s has always been good to me.
Why do you think you had such an especially good year this year?
First of all, this is a weather-driven business, but the economy right now is really strong. Also, I think Rita’s has come out with a lot of new ideas, some new items and some new flavors like the Unicorn and things like that. Rita’s has really been strong the last five years — the way they just keep getting creative with all these new items and offering more support.
What are the kinds of support that a new franchisee might find helpful?
The training is getting better and better every year. Actually, they hired one of my store managers for corporate, so they’re getting people who have worked in the business to start helping franchisees and new franchisees. I think that’s been a plus for them. Also, I think ever since Linda Chadwick has been on board as the CEO, she has been a really strong leader. She is looking at how to improve things from the perspective of the franchisee, which I think is very important. She’s done things like cutting down cup sizes and not making us carry as much inventory in our stores and things like that, which really helps with operational costs.
A lot of people would say you could just go out and open your own ice cream shop or Italian ice store. Why would you invest in a Rita’s franchise instead of opening your own?
I’m going to give you a little story here. I was in another frozen dessert business, a factory ice cream concept, back in ’89. I was in that concept from ’89 to ’99 prior to me going with Rita’s. And we opened up at 7 o’clock in the morning, we closed at 11 o’clock at night, and we were the first store in the city of Philadelphia with wraps. We had frozen desserts. And I can tell you in those 10 years, the sales that I did in that store there don’t even compare to what I do in a Rita’s store in a single year. Rita’s is just an incredible concept, and you get that time off.
Mom-and-pop stores can’t compete with that name, that brand, and the product sells itself. There’s nothing like it out there. Nothing. The freshness, the 36-hour throw-away period, is very important. There’s no shortcuts with that product. Make it today. Sell it today. Tomorrow, throw it away, make another batch and it’ll sell itself. They love it.
The Folsom store is the No. 1 store (in 2019). It was No. 3 last year and in the last 8 or 10 years, it was a No. 2 store.
What’s the secret to your success?
Do what they teach you, keep the product fresh. I don’t care if you’ve got a half a tub left over, throw it away. Make that product fresh tomorrow because they know with that product it’s not the same. And I tell every franchisee that’s the key to my store’s success. I’ve got my son in one store, my sister-in-law in another store and one of my store managers in Folsom; she’s worked for me for 10 years. I’m actually buying back one store I sold, and she’s going to be a partner of mine in that store. I tell all my store managers, don’t ever let me get a phone call from Rita’s and say they found old ice in my store. Don’t call me. Just keep moving because that’s probably one of the most important things you could do. Keeping that product fresh.
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