It all started on Bob Tumolo’s front porch in a Philly suburb back in 1984. That’s when the former Philadelphia firefighter, looking for a side hustle, used his mother’s famous recipe to open a small Italian ice business. Tumolo decided to name the shop after his wife, and just like that, Rita’s Ice was born. By Lizzy Yeserski
It all started on Bob Tumolo’s front porch in a Philly suburb back in 1984. That’s when the former Philadelphia firefighter, looking for a side hustle, used his mother’s famous recipe to open a small Italian ice business. Tumolo decided to name the shop after his wife, and just like that, Rita’s Ice was born.
Five short years later, in 1989, after experiencing soaring success and a cult-like fanhood, Rita’s began franchising. Now, with over 600 locations across the U.S. and an international presence, Rita’s Ice dominates the frozen-treat space as the world’s largest Italian ice and custard brand.
“When Rita’s first started out, they had just a few flavors of Italian ice,” explained Lori Shaffron, Rita’s senior director of franchise sales. “Today, we have over 90 flavors of ice. Our brand just keeps growing.”
While passion has always been an essential ingredient for Rita’s rise, Shaffron also credits the brand’s commitment to quality.
“First, it starts with our product,” said Shaffron. “Our Italian ice is truly unique. It’s made fresh daily on the premises with real fruit. And our treats just stand out because we offer our guests the thrill of discovery.”
Rita’s keeps that thrill alive with mouth-watering, intense flavors and limited-time-only menu items that generate neighborhood buzz and entice repeat customers. And the brand’s authentic frozen custard (a hard-to-find specialty celebrated for its creamy decadence) distinguishes it from ordinary ice cream parlors. In the near-$30 billion frozen-desserts industry, standout products give Rita’s Ice a notable edge.
For potential franchisees, Rita’s offers a turn-key opportunity supported by a tried-and-true business model. “It’s very easy to start a Rita’s franchise because we, as the home office, created the playbook,” noted Shaffron. This playbook includes Rita’s family recipe and all the established systems that make running the operation seamless. With only two core products, minimal staffing requirements, low food costs, and high-profit margins, Rita’s is a simple start-up business.
Besides supplying the fundamentals, Rita’s gives franchisees extensive, ongoing support. The company’s three-part training includes virtual learning and hands-on experience at Cool University, Rita’s state-of-the-art training campus located near company headquarters outside of Philadelphia. Once a franchise is up and running, Rita’s then sends an assigned consultant to the location for several days to make sure the new owner is ready and comfortable.
The company also provides in-depth marketing assistance to help entrepreneurs not only launch their businesses but sustain momentum. Since Rita’s is 100% franchised, the corporate team works tirelessly to elevate the brand and keep locations thriving.
To that end, Rita’s continues to identify new sales-driving opportunities, such as digital sales, third-party delivery, and catering to provide additional revenue streams. As a recession-proof business, Rita’s capitalizes on the take-home opportunities that really exploded in 2020.
Above all, owning and operating a Rita’s Ice is about building relationships within a community and hosting a neighborhood hub where people can gather and socialize. The brand’s tagline, “Ice, Custard and Happiness,” sums it up. “Our goal is to be the happiest frozen-treat experience in the world and to have fun,” said Shaffron.
“I think that Rita’s is a proven business model. And it’s iconic,” concluded Shaffron. “We offer a unique product line with remarkable, loyal fans. It’s a cultural phenomenon that’s growing every day.”
Now’s the perfect time to join the Rita’s Ice family and get in on the fun. To learn more about franchising opportunities, visit ownaritasfranchise.com.
– Lizzy Yeserski