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.
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.
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.
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