Rita’s Italian Ice has named Eric Taylor senior vice president and chief development officer, a newly created position at the Trevose, Pa.-based company.

Taylor previously held senior leadership roles at Metromedia Restaurant Group and Sbarro. In his new role, he oversees Rita’s domestic and international expansion.

“Eric’s experience growing franchises businesses, leading sales teams, and opening restaurants successfully both domestically and internationally is a perfect fit with our overall expansion plans,” said Jeff Moody, chief executive of Rita’s, in a statement. “We are very happy to have him join our leadership team during this critical time of accelerated growth.”

The frozen-treat chain of more than 600 units in 25 states has aggressive growth plans for 2014, with 85 openings planned by year’s end. Rita’s has entered several new states this year, including Alabama, California, Utah and Minnesota.

This week, Rita’s awarded its first franchise agreement in Iowa to retired Navy service members Darrell Cook and Anne Winslow-Cook, who will open their first location by the end of July in West Des Moines.

“Rita’s is proud to open in our 25th state, Iowa,” Taylor said in a statement. “As Rita’s is focused on growth, we are actively encouraging franchisees to run multiple locations. We are looking for enthusiastic franchisees to become part of our success story. Now, Iowans will see Rita’s growth throughout the Greater Des Moines area with our newest franchise partners.”

Moody previously told Nation’s Restaurant News that Rita’s sales and unit development began to accelerate as harsh winter weather turned to spring around the country, particularly in the chain’s core Northeast markets.

This year marks Rita’s 30th anniversary, which the chain is celebrating with several new flavors of its signature Italian Ice, including Starburst Cherry and Starburst Orange. Its current limited-time flavor, Mango-Strawberry, is available through July 27.

In addition to spreading to new, often warmer states in the United States, Rita’s will also look to open in new international markets. Last October, Rita’s opened its first international restaurant in Shenzhen, China. Under new master franchise agreements signed this year, locations are scheduled to open in Canada and the Philippines.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN