Rank no. 121 – Rita’s Italian Ice – US
Products & Services: Italian ices, frozen custard, gelati
Number of Locations: 552
Total Investment: $140.19K – 379.39K
Began Franchising: 1989
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.
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).
|FINANCING TYPE||IN-HOUSE||THIRD PARTY|
|Type||Private (subsidiary of Falconhead Capital Partners)|
|Industry||Dessert, Quick Service|
|Headquarters||Trevose, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Number of locations||600+ (2013)|
|Key people||Jeff Moody President and CEO|
|Products||Rita’s Italian Ice|
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 ice, frozen 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. McKnight Capital Partners recognized the organization’s growth potential and set into place plans to take the company to the next level.
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.
In 2013, Rita’s opened its first location outside of the United States in Shenzhen, China.
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". 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.