Rita’s Italian Ice, the world’s largest Italian ice and frozen custard concept with more than 600 stores in two countries and 27 states, continues its westward expansion with additional area development agreements for California and Nevada. 

San Francisco Ice Empire Inc. (SFIE) an investment group headed by Lisa Rasmussen and Misty Young along with Dr. Fernando Luque, Matt Seever, and Judith Paulin, will develop at least 60 additional Rita’s franchise locations throughout 28 northern California counties: Alpine; Amador; Butte; Calaveras; El Dorado; Fresno; Inyo; Kern; Kings; Madera; Marin; Mariposa; Merced; Mono; Monterey; Napa; Placer; San Benito; San Luis Obispo; San Mateo; Santa Cruz; Shasta; Solano; Sonoma; Stanislaus; Tulare; Tuolumne; and Yolo, and five northern Nevada counties: Carson City; Douglas; Lyon; Storey; and Washoe. When combined with its sister company, East Bay Ice Empire, which opened in July 2014, the two companies are expected to open 125 locations, a dozen of which are anticipated to open in 2015.  

Upon build out, the deal is expected to net up to 450 jobs throughout the 33 counties. If each store is built from scratch, the transaction could represent as much as $10 million in construction and development budgets overall. Rita’s area developers have been opening an average of one store per week throughout California.

“The only way to explain Rita’s to those in the West who have not yet experienced it is to compare it to In-N-Out — it’s the In-N-Out of desserts,” says Lisa Rasmussen, president of SFIE. 

Misty Young, SFIE vice-president adds, “The West Coast is just discovering what the fuss is all about with Rita’s delicious, healthier-for-you, fat-free ice products and wide variety of other delectable frozen treats priced at a point families can afford.”

“We sold 66 percent of our 10-year plan within the first seven months so we had no choice but to expand. Being a business owner, that’s certainly not a bad problem to have,” Young says. “The strength of the Rita’s brand is evident in its simple operations, low prime costs, and extreme guest loyalty.  We’re primarily interested in multi-unit franchise investors seeking to expand their holdings and cash flow position,” she adds.

San Francisco Ice Empire has created a Best Practices Academy coaching program to support new Rita’s Italian Ice franchisees and to supplement the comprehensive training and support program offered by Rita’s Franchise Company. 

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