Franchises: Rita's, Saladworks branch out

Rita's Italian Ice, the 600-store Trevose, Pa.-based chain founed by Philadelphia ex-firefighter Bob Tumolo and owned since 2011 by Michael Lorelli's Falconhead Capital, a New York buyout firm, says it has awarded its largest-ever franchise-development agreement to East Bay Ice Empire Inc. to add 75 stores employing over 500 people in six populous California counties to the east of San Francisco.

The team includes President Lisa Pina-Rasmussen, Matt Seever, Misty Young and Sandra Bourasa. At least two of the investors also operate businsses for ACN Inc., a multi-level marketing company that some observers compare to Amway. In a statement, Pina-Rasmussen said she hopes to repeat the chain's recent growth in Southern California. The group is seeking franchisees at  Rita's operates in 21 U.S. states, with outposts in Canada, China, India and the Dutch Caribbean, ceo Jeff Moody said in a statement.

Separately, Saladworks, the Conshohocken-based salad restaurant chain, says it plans to open stores in Boston, Rochester, Virginia Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Morgantown, and towns in Tennessee and Michigan later this year, and has added stores in Vancouver, Canada and Raffles Place, Singapore, with others planned for Qatar and Dubai, ceo Paul Steck said in a statement.

The total Saladworks store count -- 105 -- is little changed from the late 2000s, stores have closed in the fast almost as fast as others have opened, and past backers like Commerce Bank founder Vernon Hill are no longer with the company.

Saladworks has been growing recently: Sales totalled $20.3 million in the three months ended June 30, up $3 million from last year, spokesman Mitch Donaberger told me. The company employs around 2,000.