It’s important to decide what type of ice a foodservice operation or bar will require, including crushed, hard cubes, extruded or a combination. A growing number of upscale bar operators now use specialty ice or bigger cubes.
Operators need to decide if water- or air-cooled or remote condensing systems best suit their facilities. If the ice machine will reside in a tight place with little air circulation, consider a water-cooled unit. Be aware, though, some municipalities prohibit water-cooled ice machines. If the operation opts for a self-contained air-cooled condenser model, check the ice machine environment for adequate ventilation.
On hot days, when demand for ice is highest, ice machine output will be lowest because of the heat’s effect on compressors. For this reason, operators should consider purchasing ice machines capable of meeting their peak demand on these days, rather than average volumes, because drink sales can easily be lost on a hot day if there is no ice. For operations with higher weekend volumes but lighter traffic during the week, consider pairing a smaller capacity ice machine with a with a larger bin that can handle those peak periods.
A drain, electrical source and water source must be in close proximity to the ice machine.
Determine how much ice an operation needs on a daily basis and the desired shape. A general rule of thumb is between ½ to 1 pound per person, depending on the project. While a sit-down restaurant will utilize ½-pound of ice per person, a resort that has a high-volume bar and beverage operation may require 1 pound of ice per person.
Before buying an ice machine or dispenser, measure the width, length and height of the space available.
Depending on the amount of space available, it may make sense to purchase 2 ice makers that produce 800 pounds each of ice per day, rather than 1 unit that provides 1,500 pounds of ice. This way, if one unit goes down, the other unit continues to make ice.
It’s common for a fast-casual restaurant to have a single 1,600-pound unit atop a 1,200-pound bin so there is spare ice in case service is interrupted. It’s best to upsize the bin, for example specifying a 1,400-pound capacity instead of 1,000 pounds, just in case.
Maintenance is another consideration when purchasing an ice maker. Units should be easy to clean, delime and descale. Antibacterial coatings also are preferable. Along with quick and easy access to air filters, operators should think about the type of water filters a unit requires. This will depend on water quality, such as whether it’s soft or hard, and mineral and chlorine content.