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Rank no. 121 – Rita’s Italian Ice – US

Rank no. 121 – Rita’s Italian Ice – US

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Products & Services: Italian ices, frozen custard, gelati

Number of Locations: 552

Total Investment: $140.19K – 379.39K

Founded: 1984

Began Franchising: 1989

About Rita’s Italian Ice

in 1984, former firefighter Bog Tumolo opened his first Italian ice store in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, naming it after his wife Rita. His mother helped him make the Italian ice, and his brother John helped him open three more stores over the next three years, all in the Philadelphia area. Customers began asking about how to open their own Rita’s Italian Ice, so Tumolo began franchising in 1989. The franchise system was sold to private equity group McKnight Capital Partners in 2005. Then in late 2011, investment firm Falconhead Capital bought a controlling interest.

Franchise Units

2013 552 0 0 0
2012 552 0 0 0
2011 545 0 0 1
2010 552 0 0 2
2009 562 0 0 2
Where Seeking Franchisees: Franchisor is seeking new franchise units worldwide.

Startup Costs, Ongoing Fees and Financing

Total Investment: $140,200 – $379,400
Franchise Fee: $30,000
Ongoing Royalty Fee: 6.5%
Term of Franchise Agreement: 10 years, renewable

Net Worth: $300,000
Liquid Cash Available: $100,000


50% of all franchisees own more than one unit. Number of employees needed to run franchised unit: 2 – 15. Absentee ownership of franchise is allowed. (100% of current franchisees are owner/operators).

Franchise Fee
Startup Costs
Accounts Receivable

How This Franchise Supports Franchisees

Training: Available at headquarters: 5 days. At franchisee’s location: 2-4 days. At training campus : 2 days.
Ongoing Support: Newsletter, Meetings, Toll-free phone line, Grand opening, Internet, Security/safety procedures, Field operations/evaluations, Purchasing cooperatives, Lease Negotiation
Marketing Support: Co-op advertising, Ad slicks, National media, Regional advertising,
Other marketing support: PR support

Franchise Ranking History

Franchise 500®: #121 (2013), #156 (2012), #76 (2011), #82 (2010), #76 (2009),
Fastest-Growing: #50 (2010), #51 (2009),
Rita’s Italian Ice
Type Private (subsidiary of Falconhead Capital Partners)
Industry DessertQuick Service
Founded 1984
Founder(s) Bob Tumolo
Headquarters Trevose, PennsylvaniaUnited States
Number of locations 600+ (2013)
Key people Jeff Moody President and CEO
Products Rita’s Italian Ice
Parent Falconhead Capital

Rita’s Italian Ice, also known as Rita’s Water Ice, is an East Coast regional chain based in Trevose, Pennsylvania in Bensalem Township, selling mainly Italian icefrozen custard, and gelati (not traditional Gelati, see below), as well as its specialty creations.


Rita’s was founded in 1984 by former Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo with a recipe that he purchased from an elderly neighbor that he then adjusted to enhance the flavors and include real fruit. Rita’s originally advertised its product as “water ice", using the colloquial term for what is sometimes called “Italian ice" in other areas of the country. By 1987 a second store was opened, and in 1989 the family decided to franchise their business. Today, there are over 500 locations in 20 states and the District of Columbia. In May 2005, the company was sold to McKnight Capital Partners, a private equity group with extensive franchise experience.[2][3] McKnight Capital Partners recognized the organization’s growth potential and set into place plans to take the company to the next level.[1]

In April 2007, Rita’s moved its Bensalem headquarters to the Trevose section of Bensalem Township.[4]

In 2011, Falconhead Capital purchased a controlling interest in the company from an investment group led by Jim Rudolph. Falconhead named their operating partner Thomas Christopoul as the new chairman and interim chief executive.[5]

In 2013, Rita’s opened its first location outside of the United States in Shenzhen, China.

Rita’s has traditionally given out a free regular-sized water ice on the first day of Spring.[6]


  • Italian ice.[7]
  • Frozen custard.[8]
  • Gelati, Italian ice in between either frozen custard or Slenderita.[9]
  • Misto, a drink of liquid custard blended with Italian ice.[10]
  • Blendini, a combination of frozen custard and Italian ice blended with crushed Oreo pieces, Nilla Wafer pieces, pretzel pieces, Heath pieces, Reeses Pieces, Reeses, M&M’s Minis, or Wonka Nerds.[11]
  • Slenderita, fat-free soft serve.[12]
  • Cream Ice.[13]
  • Milkshakes


In March 2010, Rita’s Italian Ice announced it would partner with Bethlehem-based Just Born, Inc. to introduce a seasonal Peeps Brand Marshmallow Candy flavored ice.[14]

The partnership between Rita’s and Peeps would provide new flavor combinations, such as “Peeps Chocolate Covered Gelati", “Peeps Chocolate Covered Misto" and “Peeps Pie Blendini".[14] The Peeps flavor was discontinued in 2011.

Rita’s partnered with Cadbury in July 2009 to introduce its Swedish Fish italian ice flavor. On June 29, 2012, Rita’s partnered with Cadbury once more to release its Sour Patch KidsRed italian ice flavor.

Other companies involved in Rita’s italian ice flavors:

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, “Alex’s Lemonade" italian ice.

Nabisco, “Oreo Cookies and Cream" cream ice and “Mint Oreo®" cream ice.

Wrigley Jr. Company & Starburst “Starburst Strawberry" Ice.

Hasboro Gaming, “Candy Land" Collect and win game.



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