Is Rita's in markets with no capacity restrictions? If so, how’re those stores performing versus those with limitations? Are restaurants allowing full seating or instituting their own capacity limits?
The majority of Rita’s shops are walk-ups, so there is minimal impact for our shops. In markets where our franchisees operate walk-in Rita’s locations, those restrictions depend on their municipality—but many of those mandates typically only apply to businesses with full indoor seating. That said, we still encourage discussions between local health departments and our franchisees to ensure that the proper safety measures are being taken.
What type of unit growth is Rita’s expecting this year? What markets is the chain targeting?
We hope to out-pace our 2020 franchise signings to lock in at least 90 new franchise sales agreements. Our franchise development teams are targeting Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Maryland, and Ohio for expansion, but we’re certainly not limiting ourselves to these states.
How challenging is the current labor market? Have unemployment benefits or other aspects of the pandemic made it more difficult to hire workers?
We’re finding that franchisees who have dedicated team members have been able to retain their staff with minimal turnover, but we’re seeing a trend of it being more difficult to hire new staff. With many of our locations being seasonal, many of our franchisees onboard their team members early on and have them return each season.
How is Rita’s approaching the federal minimum wage debate and the potential of that coming down the pipe in the next couple of years?
At Rita’s, we know that our people are essential in creating the Rita’s experience that our guests have grown to love for years and years. Our team will follow closely as federal minimum wage is discussed and eventually finalized. The entire country will likely see an increase in the price of goods and services across the board once that’s finalized, but our team will work in an effort to keep any changes in pricing minimal.
How did Rita’s approach vaccinations for employees? Were there any discussions about it becoming mandatory?
Rita’s Franchise Company, LLC does not have a policy with franchisees regarding the mandate of vaccinations. We will continue to abide by CDC guidelines in the operation of our business.
What type of environment do you expect to see in the summer? Do you believe there will be “pent-up demand” from consumers?
As restrictions begin to loosen due to lessening COVID cases and an increase in vaccinations, we’ve already witnessed people taking advantage of the warm weather and beginning to gather safely once again. As usual, we anticipate Rita’s being the go-to summer spot, especially as we’ve worked to add new ways for people and families to enjoy the Rita’s experience no matter where they are. The excitement is two-fold, as our existing, established shops have reopened for a long-awaited season, and as we launch new shops to introduce our frozen treats to communities that may have never tried Rita’s before. For example, we just signed a multi-unit deal to bring the first-ever Rita’s to Kentucky. The first shop will open in Bowling Green and the community is already calling and walking by to ask for an opening date. Rita’s lives in the summer memories of so many people, and our entire team and franchise network can’t wait to help everyone feel a sense of normalcy, even as we all collectively navigate this “new normal.”