Rita's Italian Ice has named Michael Lorelli as its executive chairman of the board, as well as interim CEO following the depature of Jonathan Fornaci.

Lorelli is an operating partner of Falconhead Capital, a private equity firm specializing in growing franchise businesses, which acquired Rita's in 2011.

Lorelli has been an outside director of the Rita's brand since the Falconhead acquisition.

"There is a powerful opportunity to expand the very loyal Rita's customer base both within the existing geography, as well as in new U.S. and International markets," said Mike Lorelli, executive chairman. "Rita's opened its first three California outlets in June, and expansion efforts are underway in other western states and International markets. The first units in China are slated for fall openings."

As interim CEO, Lorelli is spearheading the search for a president, following the departure of Fornaci. When the search is completed, he will continue in his role as executive chairman.

"The candidate profile is really pretty simple. . . deep experience in the QSR space, leadership experience in franchising, and a strong fit within the very unique and special Rita's culture," Lorelli said.

Lorelli's 30-year career includes responsibilities for both domestic and international units. At PepsiCo, Lorelli served as chief executive officer of Pizza Hut's International division where he led the expansion of the company's presence from 68 to 92 countries. He served as president of Pepsi-Cola East, a $1.5 billion operating company, and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo's beverage sector.

He was most recently chief executive of WaterJel Technologies, and has led four private equity companies as CEO. Lorelli is a director of CP Kelco, and iControl, and has his MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business. He also holds Masters Accreditations at both the National Association of Corporate Directors, and The American College of Corporate Directors.

Lorelli succeeds Tom Christopoul as chairman of Rita's following his departure.

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