A former Rita’s Italian Ice franchise owner posted a TikTok series warning against the chain after her franchise was cut off.
Gina (@flicequeen) has reached over 16,700 views on her original video. She has since posted three update videos, explaining her side of the story to the viewers.
@flicequeen DO NOT BUY A RITAS ITALIAN ICE. #ritasitalianice #fyp #franchise #storytime ♬ original sound – Gina
In her first video, Gina explains how she used to own a Rita’s Italian Ice store in Lakeland, Florida, until the company decided to “terminate our relationship,” she says.
“I’m here to spill the tea,” she adds, “so if you want to know what happened and why you shouldn’t buy a Rita’s Italian Ice franchise, make sure to follow along.”
Gina also says she will be “coming in with some receipts” on everything.
In her second video, titled “Part 1,” she says she chose to make a mini-series explaining her experience so she can “help somebody else who’s deciding whether or not to buy a franchise.”
@flicequeen Part 1- why not to buy a Ritas #franchise #poorcustomerservice #fyp #storytime ♬ original sound – Gina
Gina explains that when she originally had the idea to purchase the franchise, she was actually in labor with her daughter at the hospital. Once returning home, she called Rita’s, and the first thing they told her was that she would need to work with their vendors, and “only their vendors,” during the process.
Next, she says the first step was to look for a location. “They put me in touch with a real estate agent,” she says, “they were actually out of Texas.”
After working with the agent from Texas for a while, she realized how many months had gone by, and she hadn’t seen much progress.
“Finally, I got in touch with Rita’s, someone in real estate, and I told him,” Gina says. She says Rita’s representative told her that she should have received something after a few months.
To this, Gina tells the representative that she doesn’t want to work with that agent anymore. “I don’t think he’s doing anything,” she adds. “This is COVID. At the time, properties were being bought and sold quickly.”
So, Gina says she messaged the agent and told him she didn’t need to work with him anymore.
“His response was, ‘You know, we sent you a link almost a week ago that you never opened, not sure why. But if you decide to use any of the sites we sent you in that link, you’re gonna owe us money,'” Gina recounts.
Gina says she took issue with the agent’s behavior, and Rita’s decided not to back her. “They were like, ‘You know, it’s not us that’s talking to you that way; it’s just our vendor,'” she adds.
She admits she was upset, but there was nothing she could do about it.
Once she started building out her store, Gina says Rita’s head of construction also got into a disagreement with her. “After I found out about shelves,” she says, “shelving units, they were gonna be six to eight weeks delivery, and it was going to be after I opened the store.”
Gina explains that she couldn’t have opened the store without any shelves because the health department wouldn’t give her “the go” unless she had a place to store food products safely.
Due to this, Gina canceled the order and stopped messaging the Rita’s employee.
Next, Gina says she was asked to pay extra money for delivery fees because none of the other vendors that Rita’s booked for her would be coming in on time either.
She says she is grateful for the on-site construction company that took her side on many of these issues, saying it wasn’t her responsibility to pay.
The next issue Gina found was that the freezer she received did not work. “How do you open an ice cream shop without a working freezer? I don’t know, but I was expected to do that,” she says.
After emailing back and forth with a company that was supposed to fix her freezer, she says the company asked her for the money before the freezer had even been fixed. Gina also says Rita’s corporate was on the email chain as well.
“And Rita’s corporate said absolutely nothing,” she adds.
Gina says this was the first problem she found with Rita’s. “Every time I turned around, I was expected to use their people,” she says. “Their people weren’t good; their people were nasty, and they really weren’t professional.”
Next, Gina posts part two of her story.
@flicequeen Yall are gonna have to wait until tomorrow for part three. #storytime #trolls #spillthetea #fyp #herewego ♬ original sound – Gina
This video has an on-screen caption that says, “Why I was terminated as a franchisee.”
Approximately a week after Gina’s store finally opened, despite all the setbacks, she dealt with a customer who attempted to pay for her ice cream with a $100 bill.
“My treat team member told her we could not accept that $100 bill,” she explains. The customer then asked for a manager.
Once Gina got to the customer, she said the customer was upset and didn’t believe that she was the manager. Gina also told her that they could not accept the $100 bill.
“She and her significant other go on Facebook, and they tell everyone that I was yelling and cursing at them,” she says, “that I ripped the ice cream out of her autistic child’s hands.”
The customer allegedly asked for others to leave negative reviews as well, and Gina says they did.
“It was nothing short of a nightmare,” she says. “Even though the story was the farthest thing from the truth, these people began to threaten my home, threaten me, threaten my treat team members, and I had to shut down my store.”
Of course, Gina says since she had to shut down her store, Rita’s franchise needed to be made aware of the situation. “Rita’s decided to remove my Facebook,” she says. Gina originally thought this was a good idea, but it turned out to make the situation worse.
“These people went on Google to start leaving me negative reviews,” she adds. Gina says the situation continued to get worse.
Then, Gina says she receives a phone call from Linda Chadwick, the CEO of Rita’s.
“I showed her the video proof that I have of my side of the story, and somehow, it ended up with me and her in a screaming match,” she says. “I’m shocked because this is really far from professional, but I had some respect for her because she held her own.”
By the end of the conversation, Gina says both parties “held their end of the deal.”
However, Gina decided to sue the customers who wrongfully accused her. “That then caused a massive strain on my relationship with Rita’s,” she says before ending her second video.
In her third video, Gina says this is the “most wild by far.” She says, “You need to stick around cause you won’t believe me unless you see it for yourself.”
@flicequeen #greenscreen This part is almost unbelievable. #cancelled #storytime #fyp #herewego #franchise #business ♬ original sound – Gina
Gina explains that before her store shut down, her treat team brought to her attention that every time they ate one of their products, they started to feel sick.
“I try our product, I start feeling sick,” Gina says. Then she goes to ask Rita’s why this could be happening.
“They tell me I’m not cleaning my machine properly,” she says, “I knew that wasn’t true because I was cleaning the machine myself.”
Gina begins to ask other franchisees why people would be getting sick. “That’s when a franchisee told me that could happen if I’m not storing our custard properly, at proper temperatures.”
Again, Gina says this couldn’t be true since they have thermometers on their fridge. It was brand new and was keeping the temperature just fine.
“So that’s when it dawned on me that our deliveries come from three to five o’clock in the mornings, and I’ve never been there for a delivery to check the temperature,” she adds.
So, she decided to show up at 4 a.m. “Make sure you screenshot it,” Gina says before pulling up an email with a photo attached. The photo shows the custard sent to her at a temperature of 49 degrees.
Gina says Rita’s was made aware of this issue and still allowed it to happen for “over a month.” She adds that not all deliveries showed up as 49 degrees, but they were almost always above 42.
In an email, Gina shows a screenshot of Rita’s claiming that “42 degrees is safe” for custard temperatures.
Rita’s also claims that they were not dropped at the right temperature because the “driver” did not have the correct thermometer.
“This was the end of August, and they were made aware of some of these issues at the beginning of August, as you can see in my first email,” Gina says.
This is when Gina says she told the company that 42 degrees is not safe. “You guys know it’s not safe because it’s in your product manuals,” she adds. The product manuals state that the custard should be under 42 degrees.
After all of this, as well as the customer allegations, Gina decided to close her store.
Before ending her video, Gina says she asked Rita’s for loss of income for both her and her treat members.
She says they were not paid and were told they should have opened the store “with the expired product, with the out-of-temperature custard” and should have “just made it work.”
Viewers were shocked by the actions of Rita’s Italian Ice. “Jaw dropping to the floor,” one says. “Wtf is wrong with them!?”
“I’m so sorry to hear this Gina. Your community is here for you, #lakeland,” another says.
The Daily Dot reached out to Gina via TikTok direct message and Rita’s Italian Ice via email.