Nugget ice machines can produce as much as 2,000 pounds of ice every 24 hours, depending on the size and type of equipment. A good rule of thumb to remember as you search for the right machine is that a full-service restaurant will require roughly 11⁄2 pounds of ice per seat turn. A full-service bar will require twice that much, while a fast-food restaurant will need just under a pound per 24-ounce drink served.
Head-Only Ice Machines
Head-only ice machines are designed to interface with sold-separately ice machine bins. This equipment offers the highest production capacities, ranging from a few hundred to 2,000 pounds. Ice production ratings are based on ideal air and water temperatures, generally 70 degrees and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Since your facilities aren't likely to provide temperatures that cool, it pays to go with a size larger than what you need based on the machine's rating to ensure you don't run low on ice during a busy rush.
It's important to pay attention to machine clearance requirements if you decide a full-size ice machine is the right choice. Air-cooled equipment requires up to 8 inches of breathing room between it and surrounding surfaces in order for it to produce ice efficiently. Where conditions are crowded, consider choosing a top-air discharge nugget ice machine that requires no side or rear clearance.
Undercounter Ice Machines
Smaller restaurants and bars that need just a few pounds of ice per hour may benefit from an undercounter pellet ice maker. This equipment tucks neatly underneath a 32-inch countertop and produces up to a few hundred pounds of ice per day. Their compact design makes these ice makers suitable for space-limited venues that need ice for low-volume applications, such as serving specialty drinks and blending frozen treats like smoothies.
If you've decided an undercounter nugget ice machine is the best type for your establishment, you'll need to decide if you need one with a gravity drain or a pumped drain. Gravity drains remove water from the ice bin through a hole in the bottom, which means they need to be installed over a floor drain. Where no floor drain is available and one can't be installed, pumped drains will direct water into a drain pipe that can be plumbed to the machine for that purpose.
Countertop Ice Machines
Nugget ice machines are also popular in healthcare facilities where the soft ice poses less of a choking hazard to convalescent patients. Countertop ice dispensers are popular in this type of facility because they can be installed in kitchens and at nurses' stations to provide nugget ice by the glass or by the bin. This type of equipment often includes a water dispenser to create an all-in-one drink station.