Even amid a pandemic, Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard is growing both its fan base and franchise network. Following an impressive 2020 featuring franchise sales growth numbers that haven’t been reached since 2014, the frozen treat franchise is planning on having another banner year. In addition to signing 75 new franchise agreements in 2020, Rita’s grew same store sales year-over-year, expanded into new markets and remained innovative in order to keep its teams and guests safe in a time of uncertainty. The brand kicked-off the year with an impressive first quarter with openings across Florida, Pennsylvania and Alabama, all of which make up its strategic plan to bring the beloved concept to well over 600 markets across the country. Rita’s is actively seeking strategic franchisees to develop in states including but not limited to Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and more.
While 2020 presented a year filled with challenges, Rita’s leadership team and franchisees found opportunities with new ways to grow, adapt and expand their offerings in local communities. Many implemented third-party delivery, curbside pick-up, and some even built drive-thrus to keep communities safe and maintain social distancing. These innovations are still an active part of Rita’s strategy today and have fueled growth that will surely impact overall performance as the brand enters the busy spring and summer seasons. One Rita’s franchisee went above and beyond to propose the creation of a DIY Treat Take Home Kit. This kit allows families to take home Custard, Italian Ice and toppings to mix & match and “do it themselves” from the comfort of home. The piloted kit was such a success in 2020 that Rita’s has rolled out the DIY Treat Take Home Kit nationwide this year.
“Rita’s locations across the country served as a sweet escape throughout 2020 and will continue to be there for our guests in every capacity in 2021. Prospective franchisees saw firsthand that Rita’s brand loyalty, adaptive systems and innovative thinking helped the brand achieve positive growth amid a difficult year,” says Linda Chadwick, CEO of Rita’s Italian Ice & Frozen Custard.
Up next for the nostalgic Italian Ice concept is a continued focus on expanding throughout the southern region of the United States. Rita’s is looking to outpace its 2020 growth by signing 90-100 new franchise agreements throughout the year. Already off to a strong start, the brand has signed its first-ever agreement in Kentucky with franchisees Erin and David Smith and Christine Hillard. The family has signed a multi-unit deal to open locations throughout the Bluegrass State.
Rita’s is actively looking to grow with business-minded individuals who are passionate about the brand. Previous experience in the restaurant industry is a plus, but not a necessity. Chadwick notes, “Our main goal when looking for prospective franchisees is that they are engrained in their local community. Rita’s most successful franchisees get involved in community organizations, and of course, are committed to providing happiness in a cup to their neighbors.”