Rita’s sells Italian ice and frozen custard, and everything on the menu is made from some combination of those two items. Rita’s is a unique franchise opportunity with nearly 600 units across the country, and we still have many prime territories available.
Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard is the ideal franchise for people who want to operate seasonally, because in most colder climates we shut down for the winter. Franchisees can build up demand, and sure enough every First Day of Spring, Rita’s shops tend to see long lines of hungry guests waiting for their fix.
Rita’s Italian Ice Franchise Opportunity
In a world full of ice cream franchises, we offer unique frozen desserts that make customers go ‘WOW! WOW! WOW!’
There are dozens of ice cream franchises where people can get a scoop of butter pecan. Frozen custard — prized for its dense, creamy texture and intense flavors — is a rare offering. Finding silky-smooth Italian ice? Fuggetaboutit! Unless you already have a Rita’s nearby, great Italian ice is going to be hard to find.
Customers choose Rita’s because we are a friendly business with unique frozen treats. In the Northeast, we are an institution, thanks to three decades of happy customers who know what to expect. In newer markets, we have a unique advantage: We are unique!
This is a huge advantage in the nearly $30 billion frozen desserts industry because it helps franchisees win customers who are eager to try new things.
“I don’t have exact numbers, but it’s safe to say the majority of our franchisees were passionate about the brand before buying the franchise,” Chadwick said. “Many grew up with Rita’s in their neighborhoods, took their kids there or tried it on vacation, but the main theme of our franchise pipeline is that they come to us already fans of the brand.” Linda Chadwick, CEO
SCALABLE BUSINESS MODEL
Rita’s has approximately 600 locations worldwide and has been a thriving brand for over three decades. As entrepreneurs examine Rita’s and compare our business to other potential business opportunities, one of the biggest things that stands out is the ease with which franchisees can scale up operations.
Low costs and simple operations
While we offer a tremendous variety of flavors to customers, the menu items themselves consist almost entirely of Italian Ice, custard and blends of the two. There’s no cooking — which means no vent hoods to clean and no grease traps to manage. Because the ingredient list is short, there’s little inventory to manage and very little waste. Each of these factors reduces the complexity of the business for franchisees and their employees.
The ingredients for our menu items are inexpensive, so product costs are low. You typically only need minimum wage employees in the store in addition to a shift manager (or owner-operator), so labor costs are low.
The lack of cooking has another big benefit. Attracting great minimum wage employees isn’t always easy. Anyone who has ever worked in a fast food restaurant can attest to the unpleasantness of smelling like fry grease after your shift. Rita’s, by contrast, is clean. If you smell like anything at the end of your shift, it’ll probably be fresh mango. And frankly, that’s a win. Because we have a clean, colorful workplace and happy customers, Rita’s is a nice place to work. Franchisees often have a waiting list of enthusiastic kids eager to join the team.
A Business Opportunity that is Easy to Scale
There are multiple opportunities to make money as a Rita’s owner. First and foremost, storefronts provide a homebase for you and your customers. But your first storefront is just the beginning. While a lot of sales happen inside shops, the true revenue potential of the business is achieved by reaching into the community.
Part of the genius of the Rita’s business model is its scalability. Once your first location is established, your prep kitchen can — and should — reach far beyond the four walls of your shop. Vans, concession trailers and mobile carts allow you to take your product directly to customers, expanding sales and also introducing more people to your menu. This, in turn, helps drive more traffic to your storefront. Typically, franchisees will make the products at their flagship shop and use it to stock the mobile locations — ensuring quality and consistency while minimizing complexity.
By using mobile carts and other types of satellite units, it’s possible to drive significant additional sales while incurring minimal additional development costs. Costs vary widely depending on the type of satellite location you choose, but the wonderful thing is that you have a wealth of options.
The scalability of our Rita’s is especially nice for families who want to take advantage of the business opportunity to be closer. They can start the business working side-by-side, expand the opportunity by managing separate locations and eventually promote employees to managers and provide owner oversight of several shops. That’s the path many of our multi-unit operators have followed.
Seasonality Makes It Easier to Scale
Many Rita’s franchises, especially in our core Northeastern markets, are open seasonally, closing down during the coldest months of the year. Our team helps franchisees determine whether they’re better off operating their shops during the warmer months and saving on labor costs, or if they can generate a better bottom line by staying open and generating revenue to cover off-season overhead costs.
Franchisees who close for the winter often use the off-season to plan for new locations. They get the maintenance and prep work out of the way so they can hit the ground running when customers swarm the shops in spring.
HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE
- Low labor and product costs yield strong margins – Rita’s revenue model is simple: Franchise owners make money by selling frozen treats to guests. Our ticket price generally runs from $7 to $8, with add-on toppings available that can boost the final cost. Of course, it’s a rare family that comes into a shop and orders just one item.
- Simple Menu – The items we sell have strong product margins thanks to simple and inexpensive ingredients: water, sugar or sugar-free sweetener, eggs, milk, flavoring, whipped cream.
- Simple Staffing – Rita’s franchisees benefit from low labor costs. Because items are easy to prepare, and because we’ve had 35+ years to simplify and improve operations systems, it’s relatively easy to train new employees.
- Simple to Manage – Shops typically need only a minimal number of people on hand at any given time. That includes the shift manager which is often the owner-operator in the early days of the business.
Harry Jones, Rita's Franchisee talks about his investment decision.
“Rita’s is a high-margin business,” says South Carolina multi-unit franchisee Brett Hrovat. “If you have multiple stores, it’s much easier to handle inventory, and it allows me to use my employees for my cart business, which makes staffing a lot easier.”
“We do a lot of vending events. We have carts, we go onto different boardwalks or corporate events, we do a lot of street fairs. We’re always looking to expand,” says Joe DeAngelis, a multi-unit franchisee in New York with several new stores in development. “To give a number of how many stores I would like to have is kind of hard because it could be 10, it could be 50. Who knows? If you have the system in place, it’s not that difficult to keep it going.”
“I’ve worked 12 months a year [in other concepts] and put a lot of time in and didn’t have the reward that I get working seven months with Rita’s.” John Vanore of New Jersey & Pennsylvania.