Rita's Italian Ice expanding to Middle East

FILE: Rita's store manger scoops a mocha Italian ice for a customer in the Gallery Mall in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Gardner)

It's not a mirage: Rita's Italian Ice is bringing its cool treats to the desert.

The Bensalem, Pennsylvania-based chain says Wednesday it's contracting with a Middle East food executive to open 46 stores in the next decade in Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and five other Arab nations.

Rita's contractor Faysal Younes, who formerly worked with Starbucks, says the Middle East's warm climate makes it a natural market for Rita's sweet, frozen concoctions.

The company's store total doubled to more than 600 in 27 states in the last 10 years and it's partnered with a New Jersey firms to increase its presence at sports stadiums.

Now it's looking for international growth. Beside the Middle East, Rita's says it's opened or planning stores in Canada, China, India, the Philippines and the Caribbean.
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