Everything You Need to Know About Restaurant and Bar Ice Machines
Choosing a restaurant or bar ice machine is one of the most important decisions for your business. The size of the ice machine, the type of ice, and commercial ice machine installation requirements are just some of the factors you’ll need to consider.
We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help answer your questions about restaurant and bar ice makers and simplify your decision-making process.
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What Kind of Ice Machine Do I Need for My Bar or Restaurant?
The style of ice machine you choose depends on the type of business you run. Self-serve and fast-casual restaurants with limited staff may want an ice dispenser. A busy sports bar or family restaurant may need a high-capacity ice machine to meet their drink needs. Whatever business you run, there are a wide variety of ice machines on the market to fit your ice needs.
If you need a large amount of ice on hand to serve customers, then you need a high-capacity ice machine and a large ice bin. Modular ice machines are the best choice for full-service restaurants because they come in a wide range of sizes. These types of machines require an ice bin or a dispenser to store the ice until it’s ready to use. We have restaurant or bar ice machines that range from 500-1900 lbs of ice a day.
Quick Service Restaurants
Commercial ice dispensers are an excellent solution for quick-service restaurants and fast-casual establishments. Customers can retrieve ice for their drinks without needing staff assistance. Ice dispensers are also a more hygienic option than other ice machines which requires users to retrieve ice with a scoop. These systems give users more sizing options.
Learn More About Water and Ice Dispensers for Your Restaurant
Bars and Cocktail Lounges
Undercounter ice machines are great small ice makers for bars with limited space. These ice machines measure under 41” tall so they can fit under countertops and other fixtures. Undercounter ice machines allow bartenders to retrieve ice without the help of a barback. Bartenders have ice directly below them, so they can serve drinks fast and focus on their next customer.
How Do I Select the Right Type of Ice Cube?
The shape of an ice cube is not just aesthetic. Each ice shape provides a different business need. Choosing the right type of ice can help to elevate your drinks, display food, or even save you money on product loss.
What Size Restaurant or Bar Ice Machine Do I Need?
To size the right ice maker for your business, you need to consider how much ice your customers go through in a day. You should also account for how much ice you use at other stations, like under bar bins and wait stations. If you use ice for food prep, that is also a factor to consider. We’ve created a handy Ice Machine Estimator to help you estimate your daily ice needs. To correctly size your restaurant or bar ice maker, you should consider these areas:
Daily Ice Usage
To find your daily ice usage, you must estimate how much ice you go through in a day. This includes an estimate of how much ice you need for customer drinks, in addition to your ice needs for food prep, bar setup, wait stations, or beer tubs for game day. Remember, ice machines produce small batches of ice throughout the day. A 600 lb ice machine will take a full 24 hours to produce 600 lbs. of ice.
What Type of Ice Machine Condenser Do I Need for My Restaurant?
Your ice machine's condenser is one of the most vital refrigeration components. Condensers cool refrigerant so they can use it to freeze a batch of ice. If the condenser overheats, it will take longer to produce a batch of ice – which means less ice for your business. Condensers have a cooling system that keeps them from overheating. There are three common types of ice machine condensers.
What Do I Need to Install a Restaurant or Bar Ice Maker?
Before you install an ice machine, you need to make sure your restaurant can accommodate the model you choose. Ice machines have specific electric, water, drainage, and space needs. We’ve provided a pre-installation checklist that details all the requirements restaurant ice makers need to run. Restaurant or bar ice makers have four general installation needs:
Most commercial kitchens have a floor drain that can be used to flush away excess water from the restaurant or bar ice maker. Other machines, like countertop units, may require alternative drainage setups. Whatever model you choose, you’ll need to provide an air gap to install the ice machine. This a small space between the ice bin drain and wherever you decide to flush the water. Your local health code regulates the distance of the air gap, so make sure to check your municipality's requirements.
Restaurant ice machines generally run on two voltages, 115v and 220v. Ice machines that produce less than 800 lbs of ice typically use a 115v outlet. Many high-volume ice machines that produce more than 800 lbs of ice a day require a 220v outlet to supply power. If you don’t have a 220v outlet in your restaurant or bar, you may need an electrician to secure one.
To maintain your ice production rate and keep the ice cubes full and solid, you'll need plenty of water. Commercial ice machines generally require between 3-5 gallons a minute, depending on the model. If your water line does not provide the amount of water flow needed, you may need a plumber to optimize your water line for installation.
Air cooled ice machines need enough space to release heat into the environment where it can dissipate. Ice machines work best in 70-degree temperatures. If heat can’t escape from the machine, it will reenter your restaurant ice maker and lower your ice production rate. When ice machines remain in high heat conditions, they break down and require expensive repairs. You need to provide a minimum of 1 ft of space on all sides of the ice machine, including the ceiling.
We’ve serviced over 10,000 ice machines across the country. No matter the challenge, we know exactly how to keep your ice machine running smoothly. Our pre-installation checklist shows you what you need to provide to install an ice machine in your business. If you have a challenging environment, give us a call and we'll help you find a solution.
Restaurant or Bar Ice Machine Cleaning and Sanitation
Ice machine cleaning and sanitizing is necessary to prevent the growth of mold and slime in your restaurant ice maker. A professional ice machine cleaning service can also remove scale from vital ice machine parts. Mold and slime can lead to a damaging health violation, while scale buildup can damage your ice maker, requiring expensive repairs.
Regular cleaning helps to keep the outside of your ice machine free of contaminants. Even if there are no contaminants in your ice supply, users who handle the ice can accidentally contaminate the ice if they have dirt on their hands. Mold and slime will also grow faster in a dirty environment since they feed off particles in the air and on the ice machine’s surface.
Mold and Slime
Mold and slime feed off the yeast in the air and love to grow in damp, dark places - like your ice machine. Although mold and slime aren't dangerous to people, they will cause a health inspector to write a damaging violation.
Don't Forget About Ice Bin Cleaning
Ice bins are one of the most common places you'll find mold and slime. It's also where ice is stored. If mold or slime happens to fall into the ice supply and transfer to someone's drink, you’ll likely receive a bad review.
What Are the Factors That Affect My Restaurant or Bar Ice Machine Production?
There are some common environmental factors in bars and restaurants that can affect your ice machine's production rate. These factors can overwork your ice machine, which will eventually lead to expensive repairs if they are left unchecked. Here are the factors you should look out for:
A hot kitchen is one of the worst places for an air cooled commercial ice machine. Ideally, air cooled ice machines operate best when the surrounding air temperature is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit – not easy in a busy kitchen! As the temperature rises, the ice machine must work harder to freeze a batch of ice. Installing your ice machine in a temperature-controlled room away from cooking appliances is the best way to fight high ambient air temperatures.
Another must-have for air cooled ice machines. In many restaurants, space is limited, but your ice machine is not the best place to store boxes. Food containers can block vents and recirculate air. When you install an air cooled ice machine in an environment with low ventilation, the hot air that the unit produces has nowhere to go. Eventually, that air will reenter the ice machine, causing the unit to overheat.
Hot water simply takes longer to freeze than cooler water, which will overwork the ice machine and cause your machine to be slow making ice. Kitchen dishwashers can also push hot water toward your restaurant ice machine if they are on the same water line. Ideally, the water temperature should stay around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Water harbors all kinds of contaminants that are perfectly safe for human consumption but can harm your ice machine. Water with high mineral content (aka hard water) eventually leads to scale, a hard rock-like substance that can block water filters and cling to vital ice machine components.
A dirty ice machine is less effective than a clean one. Kitchens kick up a lot of grease and yeast into the air, which can get stuck to vital ice machine parts, making it harder for the machine to cool down. When these components are covered in dirt, the ice machine has to work harder to produce a batch of ice. This will cause your restaurant ice machine to wear out faster and lead to expensive repairs. It’s important to get a professional ice machine cleaning at least twice a year.
How Much Does an Ice Machine Cost?
Depending on the size of your restaurant, a commercial ice machine can cost anywhere from $1,500 to over $10,000. If you’re purchasing a modular or stackable ice machine, you will also need to purchase an ice storage bin or dispenser to store the ice. There are also a couple of hidden costs involved with properly caring for an ice machine. Here are the most common:
If you want your ice machine to be able to keep up with your daily ice needs, it will require preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance helps to ensure all ice machine components are in working order. It also helps technicians to identify potential problems before they turn into expensive repairs. Manufacturers suggest 2 preventive maintenance visits a year. Ice machine maintenance costs around $300 per visit.
Water filters help to eliminate unwanted particles and sediment from entering your ice machine and causing damage. Filters require occasional replacing (about every six months). When water filters clog, they end up reducing your water flow, which can lead to smaller, malformed ice cubes. Ice machine water filter prices range between $15-$100 depending on the brand. Ice machines in a challenging water environment may require additional water filtration in addition to a standard sediment filter.
Depending on how severe the problem is, an ice machine repair can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as high as a few thousand. Here are a few examples of common ice machine repairs and their estimated costs:
- Hot Gas Valve Replacement - $600
- Expansion Valve - $600
- Compressor Repair - $1500
- Evaporator Repair - $2500
Keep in mind, if an ice machine is down for repairs, it’s likely not going to produce ice. If it’s a long repair, you’ll have to buy ice retail or from a delivery service.
Our Ice Machine Subscription is the Perfect Solution for Business Owners like You
Our commercial ice equipment subscription is more than just an ice machine lease. Our subscription includes 2 preventive maintenance visits a year to keep your restaurant or bar ice maker in top shape. We offer additional maintenance and cleaning visits for challenging environments like bakeries or breweries. There's no need to keep track of your restaurant ice machine's maintenance and cleaning schedule. We'll call you when the ice maker is due for its next service and find the best time that works for you! We know restaurant and bar ice maker issues can happen at any time, and that’s why we offer 24-hour customer support. We'll even supply your backup ice for free if your ice machine goes down for repairs.
Choosing a restaurant or bar ice maker is harder than it seems, but our Ice Machine Experts are here to help! We have years of experience providing ice machines to restaurants and bars across the country.
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