Industry News | June 9, 2011 | QSR Exclusive Brief

Rita's Keeps Up Charity Work, Now With Texting Help

Rita’s Italian Ice is continuing its partnership with the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) for a sixth consecutive year. But this year, Rita’s consumers will have a new way to donate to the pediatric cancer research foundation: by text-messaging through their phone.

Throughout the month of June, Rita’s customers can donate to ALSF by purchasing a paper lemon for $1—which can be customized and posted to that store’s “Wall of Hope”—or they can text “ALEX” to 85944 for a one-time donation of $5.

Jim Rudolph, chairman of the board and CEO of Rita’s, says the new text-message function is a way to expand the concept’s fundraising channels.  

“One of the things I think about all the time is change,” Rudolph says. “We’re in a lifestyle of change, and this pertains to business in the same way. If you want different results, you better make changes, and hopefully people make changes for the better.”

This year, Rita’s does want different results; Rudolph says the company is aiming to raise at least $750,000, which would be well above its personal best, last year’s haul of $575,000.

Rudolph does not think the country’s economic woes will stand in Rita’s way of achieving its goal.

“It’s about us saying, ‘Forget about the recession, forget about everything you know, we’re plowing ahead,’” Rudolph says. “We’ve got a goal of $750,000, do I think we’re going to get there? I have no idea. But I know I’m not worried about what things I can’t control, it’s what I can control.”

To support the company’s lofty fundraising goals this year, Rita’s is also implementing a system of incentives for franchisees. Rudolph says franchisees are encouraged to raise at least $2,000 per store, and that those who do hit that mark can win a variety of prizes.

Getting franchisees involved in helping an organization like ALSF, Rudolph says, is a crucial way Rita’s builds its brand culture.

“I believe it’s all about the message, it’s all about the organization, it’s all about the person asking [if the consumer would like to donate money],” he says. “That’s the key.”

Since kicking off its partnership with ALSF in 2006, Rita’s has raised more than $2.5 million.

By Sam Oches