What to Consider When Buying a Commercial Ice Machine


For restaurants both large and small, ice is an important, and often necessary component of foodservice. From cooking food to displaying it, we’ve discussed how restaurants use ice in their day-to-day operations. But when it comes time to add an ice maker to a new restaurant or upgrade from an old model, there are a number of options at your disposal.

Here are a few factors to consider when buying or leasing a commercial ice machine.

Different Types of Ice

The first thing to identify when selecting an ice machine is the types of ice your operation will require. Using ice mainly for beverages or displaying the catch of the day? Be sure to choose an ice maker capable of producing the style of ice you need, be it nugget, flake, or cubed.

Sizing a Commercial Ice Machine

The quantity of needed on a daily basis will help decide the style of ice machine best suited for you. Every type of foodservice operation needs a specfic amount of ice per day. For example, restaurants need about 1.5 pounds of ice per customer in a 24 hour span. A bar, which serves more cocktails and beverages, requires about 3 pounds per customer. A cafeteria needs 1 pound per person, while a hotel uses around 5 pounds per guest. Using a salad bar or displaying seafood? You’ll likely need around 30 pounds of ice per cubic foot.

Once you identify your foodservice operation’s ice demands, you can move forward in the buying process.

Modular vs. Self-Contained

Commercial kitchens often choose modular ice machines because they produce large amounts of ice quickly. However, modular ice machines only produce ice. An additional storage bin is needed to store the ice.

Self-contained ice machines take up less space than modular and both produce and store the ice all within the same unit. This type of ice machine can fit in smaller spaces including under counters and on countertops. They do, however, produce less ice than modular machines and are suited for smaller operations.

Air-Cooled vs. Water Cooled

There are two main ice machine condenser types – Air Cooled and Water Cooled.

Air cooled ice machines are generally more affordable, energy-efficient, and use far less water than water cooled ice machines. Air flow is important for air cooled ice makers, so this style is not ideal for small restaurants without sufficient space for air to circulate or would reside near cooking equipment that gives off excess heat. Water cooled ice machines are better for operations that feature higher ambient temperatures.

Looking to add a new commercial ice machine to your Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C. foodservice operation? We can help. Click below to see if our lease program is right for you.