Rita’s Italian Ice opened the doors to its first store in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, in 1984. As a way to supplement his household income, former Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo decided to start selling Italian ice through a porch window. He eventually named the business after his beloved wife, Rita. Since then, Rita’s Italian Ice has gone on to become one of the most well-known Italian ice shops in the United States, with over 600 units currently operating around the world.
Latitude's Channel Tea Newsletter had the opportunity to speak with Victoria Coia, Rita’s Franchise Development Manager. has been with Rita’s Italian Ice for 11 years and shared their franchise training practices with us.
Rita’s “Cool” Franchise Training Process
Rita’s Italian Ice franchisees complete 17 hours of online training before being sent to Cool University, their state-of-the-art training facility located just outside of Philadelphia at the company headquarters in Trevose, Pennsylvania. During the five-day program, franchisees and their team members attend workshops, take online courses, and engage in hands-on training. They learn how to represent the brand, how to treat their guests and manage their service interactions, how to maintain and clean the equipment, and most importantly, how to make Rita’s Italian Ice products.
Rita’s Italian Ice has strict standards for product quality and freshness, so it’s absolutely imperative that franchisees and their employees understand the proper procedures for maintaining both the product and the equipment involved. As Victoria Coia said of the intensive training course at Cool University, “Our product is made fresh daily so it’s very important that they understand not only making the product on a daily basis, when they can get rid of the product, and also cleaning the equipment.”
Training is a time investment, but it’s a vital part of the process. Coia told us, “You have to invest the time to learn it in order to be successful.” Cool University will make some adjustments to accommodate the scheduling needs of individual franchisees, however they maintain a structure that allows them to cover everything that franchisees need to learn.
After franchisees have completed the five-day training program at Cool University, they receive 40 hours of hands-on training at an actual Rita’s franchise. The time spent working side-by-side with another franchisee at a Cool University satellite location gives new franchisees the rare opportunity to learn from an experienced team of employees before their own franchises are up and running.
Rita’s Italian Ice continues to build that same sense of camaraderie between its franchisees through an online forum that allows them to communicate with each other. The franchisor also sends out weekly mailers known as “Cool Alerts” to keep the lines of communication open between Rita’s Italian Ice and its franchisees.
Every location is individually owned and operated, and franchisees can have employees who work at multiple units. Franchisees are also able to send their managers and employees for full training at Cool University at any time because it’s important that they receive a thorough education to represent the brand well.
Franchisees of Rita's Italian Ice play an important role in facilitating the franchisor's brand mantra, "Ice, Custard, Happiness," and with such a thorough training program, successful franchisees are able to do exactly that.
About Rita's Italian Ice
Rita's Italian Ice began franchising in 1989, with more than 100 units operating in nine states in 1996. As of this article's writing, there are currently 625 units in operation. Falconhead Capital, a leading investment firm, purchased a controlling interest in Rita's Italian Ice in 2011 to further cultivate the success of the growing franchise. Rita's reached #29 on Franchise Gator's Top 100 list in 2015, and was named the "The Nation's #1 Franchise Among Specialty Ices" by Entrepreneur Magazine. For more information about Rita's Italian Ice franchising, visit ownaritas.com.
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