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Rita's Italian Ice

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Rita's Franchise Company, LLC
Rita's Italian Ice
Company typePrivate
IndustryDessert shop
GenreQuick Service
FoundedMay 4, 1984; 40 years ago (1984-05-04)
FounderBob Tumolo
Number of locations
Area served
31 U.S. states, mainly in the Mid-Atlantic
Key people
Kirk Griswold,
Linda Chadwick,
President & CEO
ProductsItalian ice
frozen custard
frozen treats
RevenueIncrease US$51 million (2019)
    • Argosy Private Equity (50%)
    • MTN Capital (50%)
Number of employees
5,000 (2021)

Rita's Franchise Company, LLC, doing business as Rita's Italian Ice (originally and now informally known as Rita's Water Ice), is a privately owned and operated American quick service restaurant chain originating in the Philadelphia metropolitan area that expanded throughout and now operates primarily in the Mid-Atlantic United States. The chain is known for its Italian ice or "water ice"[1] and frozen custard,[2] but also offers multiple types of frozen treats and specialty creations.[3]

Rita's opened its first restaurant in 1984 in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania, a township outside of Philadelphia, and the company gradually expanded throughout the Philadelphia region before eventually opening locations beyond the Philadelphia area. The company is currently headquartered in Trevose, Pennsylvania. As of January 27, 2022, the chain had 538[4] restaurants in 31 states, mostly located in the Mid-Atlantic.


A Rita's outpost in Philadelphia, seen in September 2023

Rita's was founded in May 1984[5] by former Philadelphia firefighter Bob Tumolo with a recipe that his mother made that he then adjusted to enhance the flavors and include real fruit. Tumolo named the restaurant after his wife, Rita Tumolo.[6] Rita's originally advertised its product as "water ice", using the Philadelphia regional term for what is sometimes called "Italian ice" in other areas of the country. By the summer of 1984, Bob had opened his second store on the opposite side of Pennsylvania, Lake Erie. In 1989, the family decided to franchise their business, and there are now over 600 locations in 30 states[citation needed] and Washington, D.C. that serve 45,000 people daily.

In May 2005, the company was sold to McKnight Capital Partners, a private equity group with extensive franchise experience.[7][8] McKnight Capital Partners recognized the organization's growth potential and set into place plans to expand the company.[3]

In April 2007, Rita's moved its Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania headquarters to Trevose, Pennsylvania.[9]

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.[10]

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 Italian ice or water ice on the first day of Spring from 1984 to 2019, and since 2022.[11] Rita's did not host a free water ice day on the first day of Spring in 2020–21, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January 2017, Argosy Private Equity and MTN Capital acquired controlling stake in Rita's from Falconhead Capital.[12]



In 2010, Rita's Italian Ice began a partnership with Just Born to offer a seasonal Peeps Brand Marshmallow Candy flavored ice.[13] The Peeps flavor was discontinued in 2011, but was offered in some stores in spring 2017.

Rita's partnered with Cadbury in July 2009 to introduce its Swedish Fish Italian ice flavor.[citation needed] On June 29, 2012, Rita's partnered with Cadbury again to release its Sour Patch Kids Red water ice flavor.[citation needed]

Other companies involved in Rita's water ice flavors include Alex's Lemonade Stand ("Alex's Lemonade" water ice) and Nabisco ("Oreo Cookies and Cream" cream ice and "Mint Oreo" cream ice).[citation needed]

See also



  1. ^ Rita's Franchise Company. "Rita's Franchise Company - Cool Treats - Menu - Italian Ice". Archived from the original on 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  2. ^ Rita's Franchise Company. "Rita's Franchise Company - Cool Treats - Menu - Custard". Archived from the original on 2010-02-09. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  3. ^ a b Hartford, Jamie (September 2009). "Rita's Water Ice Celebrates 25 Years of Success - QSR Magazine". QSR Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-09-11. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
  4. ^ "Number of Rita's Italian Ice locations in the United States in 2022". ScrapeHero. Retrieved 2022-02-20.
  5. ^ "Rita's Celebrates 30th Anniversary with Giveaways, Politicians". Phillymag. 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2016-03-29.
  6. ^ "About Us - Rita's Ice". Retrieved August 25, 2021.
  7. ^ Philadelphia Business Journal, May 4, 2005
  8. ^ Pittsburgh Business Times, May 4, 2005
  9. ^ Rita's Franchise Company (2007-04-13). "Rita's Franchise Company - Press Releases Detail - Rita's Italian Ice Set to Relocate its Cool Support Center". Archived from the original on 2010-01-03. Retrieved 2010-03-11.
  10. ^ Associated Press, Bloomberg Businessweek, 1 December 2011. "Falconhead Capital acquires Rita's Water Ice". Accessed 7 December 2011.
  11. ^ Rita's Franchise Company. "Rita's Franchise Company - Events & Promotions - First Day of Spring". Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. Retrieved 2010-03-11.
  12. ^ "Firms Purchase Rita's Franchise Company". QSR magazine. 3 January 2017.
  13. ^ Huth, Kelly (2010-03-09). "Rita's Italian Ice to offer Peeps-flavored dessert". PennLive LLC. Retrieved 2010-03-14.