How Much Ice Should Your Commercial Ice Maker Produce?
Finding the right size commercial ice machine is a crucial step toward success for any foodservice operation, be it a restaurant, a bar, or a college cafeteria. While a grocery store that fills hundreds of cubic feet of fresh seafood, meat, and produce displays with flake ice may need a massive machine, a simple countertop commercial ice maker may suffice for most convenience stores.
The good news is, there are some trusted guidelines that, while not a hard-and-fast rule, can give you direction on how much ice you’ll need. It depends largely on what type of business you have and an estimate of your ice needs, based on things like number of seats in your eatery and cubic feet in your cold bar. The good news is, if you overshoot and get a commercial ice maker that’s too large for your needs, you have room to grow. A good rule of thumb is to create an estimate of your ice production needs, then multiply it by 1.2 to allow space for growth. If you undersell yourself, you can simply supplement by adding another ice machine.
For sizing an ice bin, you’ll typically want one that can hold about 75 to 80 percent of what the ice machine can produce. So, a “head” unit, as the production part of large floor-model commercial ice makers is called, with a capacity of 560 pounds per day would work well with a bin of 420-440 pound capacity.
The Right Size Commercial Ice Maker for a Restaurant
2 pounds of ice per person – Assume 2 pounds of ice per person you serve or expect to serve. That covers drinks and any ice needs for the kitchen.
3 pounds of ice per seat for cocktails – If you’ll be serving drinks like margaritas and daiquiris that are ice-intensive, opt for 3 pounds of ice per seat per turn at your bar.
4 ounces per 10-ounce glass of water – If you plan to give every person you seat at your restaurant a glass of ice water when he or she sits down, that’s what it will take.
Special Rules for a Quick Service Restaurant Ice Machine
If you have a self-service beverage station with an ice dispenser in your dining room, you’ll likely need a larger commercial ice maker than the one prescribed by the above guidelines. People are more likely to take a drink for the road and replace or add ice when they’re in control, so that will impact how much ice you need.
However, that won’t apply to the commercial ice machine you use behind the counter for drive-thru patrons, who can only get one serving of a drink. For those folks, use approximately 5 ounces of ice per 7- to 12-ounce cup, 8 ounces of ice per 12- to 16-ounce cup, and 12 ounces of ice per 16- to 24-ounce cup.
Sizing a Commercial Ice Maker for…
Convenience StoresIf you have a convenience store with a drink station, you’ll obviously want an ice dispenser and may not even need a bin, though busy sales may require you to seek out storage for your commercial ice machine.
For beverages, the measures are the same as those given above for quick service restaurant drive-thru operations, since typically convenience stores don’t offer refills. If you’ll be selling packaged ice, simply multiply the weight of ice the bags will hold by how many bags you plan to sell in a day. Meanwhile, if you’ll be using a cold plate to hold drinks and ice, up your commercial ice machine’s production by 45 percent to account for melting and other loss.