Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, a beloved brand known for its delicious Italian Ice and Frozen Custard treats, announced that CEO and President, Linda L. Chadwick, will be featured on the CBS award-winning series UNDERCOVER BOSS, airing Friday, Jan. 28 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT, 7:00-8:00 PM, CT). In going undercover, Linda was able to gain anonymity – and a preview into the world of a Rita’s franchisee – resulting in impactful changes for the brand to help its growth nationwide.
“Going undercover allowed me to get an inside-look in our shops, hear from franchisees and interact with their teams on a much more an impactful level,” says Chadwick. “This was not just a valuable experience to learn how the brand initiatives were working, but a chance to see the business through the eyes of our franchisees and discover what we need to do as an organization to help them become more profitable and grow the brand.”
In the episode, Chadwick was disguised as “Marcy Morgan,” a long-standing Rita’s fan and retired teacher from Massachusetts who wasn’t ready to leave the workforce and was considering becoming a franchisee. Chadwick visited three franchise locations during her undercover journey, where she was able to get a first-hand, behind-the-counter view into how these Rita’s shops were operating and learn more about the people running the businesses.
Beginning in Tom’s River, NJ, Chadwick joined the staff as a Treat Team member and was inspired by franchisee Hezrron Gonzales’s American Dream story. After moving from the Philippines, Hezrron worked at a Rita’s for ten years before saving up enough money to buy his own location and a mobile unit allowing him to cater events outside of his shop. Chadwick then visited franchisee Stefani Nieves in Holland, MI, a working mom whose shop included the drive-thru system being offered to Rita’s franchisees to help increase revenue. Her last stop was in Lake Buena Vista, FL, where she worked alongside Chip Byers and Andrew Collins, franchisees committed to hiring Treat Team members with disabilities and autism.
As a result of her undercover mission, Chadwick learned there were opportunities for the franchise organization to improve across areas of the business – staffing, operations and regional/community connection. Some key priorities for Chadwick coming out of the undercover experience include developing a diversity & inclusion program, and improving how franchisees are supported by the brand’s franchise consultants by updating its brand standards, communications and procedures - all geared towards improving unit economics for their franchisees. Additionally, she will engage franchisees with Rita’s research and development team to ensure the brand maximizes opportunities to leverage trends for system and/or regional development.
“Going undercover showed me our franchisees are really engaged, want to run their shops effectively and are passionate about ‘serving up happiness’ to guests so they have a memorable experience,” says Chadwick. “Being offered a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this, you want to make the most of it. We know brand evaluation and improvement is a recipe for franchise success and growth, so we plan to apply the lessons learned throughout the organization to find more ways to help franchisees uphold brand standards, run successful shops and create a stronger bond with their local communities.”
Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard, founded in 1984 in the greater Philadelphia area, has nearly 550 shops across the U.S. and Asia and is the largest Italian ice concept in the world. Guests visit Rita’s to enjoy its famous, freshly made Italian ice and premium frozen custard in a fun-filled atmosphere.
Rita’s is actively looking for additional franchisees to help develop the brand, and is seeking to partner with hands-on entrepreneurs who are passionate about the brand and motivated to grow. Previous restaurant experience is a bonus, but not a necessity.
UNDERCOVER BOSS is a two-time Emmy Award-winning reality series that follows high-level executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own organizations. Each week, a different leader will sacrifice the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their operation.