Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rita's Planning More Locations in Jacksonville; the Company Will Be Looking for Franchise Owners as They Quadruple the Number of National Locations

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Rita's Planning More Locations in Jacksonville; the Company Will Be Looking for Franchise Owners as They Quadruple the Number of National Locations

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTOPHER CALNAN

Jacksonville is about to get a little more of a cool Philadelphia tradition.

Rita's is best known for its Italian ice -- crushed ice mixed with flavored syrups, but it also sells frozen custard and shakes.

Rita's Water Ice Franchise Co. said it plans to expand with six more stores in Jacksonville during the next 14 months, tripling its presence in Northeast Florida.

Ken Moran, the company's vice president of operations, said the 22-year-old company is targeting Jacksonville and Tampa as it plans to more than quadruple the number of locations (from 342 to 1,500) during the next five years nationally.

But Rita's can't do it on its own. The company's stores are all franchisee-owned except for the original Rita's in Bensalem, Pa. So Rita's is looking for entrepreneurs to fuel its growth.

Moran said Rita's plans to open 100 locations next year, including 12 in the Sunshine State. "Florida has to be a part of that strategy because it's a strong state for a product line like ours," he said.

In Jacksonville, Rita's is the dominant player in the Italian ice business. Independently owned businesses sell Italian ice in Jacksonville, but no national chains sell it in as their core business, Moran said.

The expansion plan could be to solidify the company's position, said consultant Marshall Reddy, president of Jacksonville-based Franchise Network Inc.

"In a marketplace like Jacksonville, if they feel like they can substantiate nine territories then they probably have the people to support them," he said. "It's probably a good play on their part."

Most of Rita's locations are free-standing buildings, and that can require a greater investment for franchise owners rather than a mall or shopping center location, Reddy said. He expects Rita's stores closer to the Beaches to generate stronger sales than other locations because the products seem to appeal more to beachgoers. …

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