Published on Thursday, 01 July 2004
Written by Toby Weber, Associate Editor
Ice machines are now key components in the success of practically every foodservice operation. Despite this fact, however, many end-users attempt to purchase units on price alone rather than on their needs and the benefits offered by the machines.
- One of the most important factors when choosing the correct ice machine is determining how much a foodservice operator's programs require. If operators do not already know their ice usage, DSRs must inquire into the types and amount of business they conduct. Both parties should then refer to usage and volume guides provided by ice machine manufacturers to determine the most appropriate volume and model.
- Foodservice operators should purchase ice machines with an eye toward their peak demand, rather than average volume.
- It is important to understand how much ice is necessary and when it will be needed. If, for example, an operation experiences high volume on the weekends but significantly lighter traffic during the week, an ice machine unit with a smaller per-day output but a larger storage bin could be ordered. This would allow an operation to save ice that is produced during the week for use during the weekend.
- Determine the most appropriate compressor for an ice machine, choosing from air-cooled, water-cooled or remote. Air-cooled machines are often the best choice, as they rely on a simple fan to cool a compressor. If a kitchen's ambient temperature is too high, however, air-cooling can actually reduce a machine's ice output. Water-cooling helps to provide a more constant production level, but it also requires an additional water line and drain line, and typically results in a higher cost of ownership because of water- and sewage-system usage. Remote compressors, which are often placed on rooftops, are the third option. However, if an area experiences hot temperatures during the summer months the output of an ice machine with a remote compressor can be affected, as well.
- Foodservice operators looking to use an ice machine to supply a self-serve beverage dispenser should consider a unit that feeds ice directly into the dispenser. While they are generally more expensive than freestanding machines, such models reduce the labor required to load ice and help to eliminate the risks posed by ice spills and lifting heavy buckets.
- For larger operations, particularly those with centralized production facilities, such as casinos and hotels, ice transport systems can be a key component of an ice machine solution. These systems often involve special carts that can be easily filled with ice and allow for the convenient distribution of ice to buffets, bars and other service points.
- Specially shaped ice, such as contoured ice or small, chewable ice nuggets, generally displace more liquid than standard cubes, and thus reduce an operation's beverage costs.
- Many ice machines are now constructed with materials infused with anti-microbial agents. These models can reduce their food safety risks, as well as the amount of labor needed to maintain ice machines.
- Properly cleaning an ice machine is a time-consuming and involved process - requiring that the storage bin be completely emptied of ice, cleaned and sanitized, among other steps - so many operators will not want to undertake required sanitizing themselves. In these instances, it is suggested that the operator contract with a local service agent.