Figuring out how much ice your business needs is not as easy as it sounds. For starters, many business owners don’t realize how a steady supply of ice affects their profits. You don’t want to end up with a small ice machine that doesn’t fit you needs. Running low on ice can prove to be a customer experience disaster that will directly affect your bottom line. If you find yourself asking, “How much ice do I need for my business?” we have good news. Easy Ice has years of experience sizing ice machines 

We would like to pass on a few tips we’ve learned over the years. Let’s start by asking some crucial questions.  

How Much Ice Do I Need Each Day? 

When asking, “How much ice do I need?” it’s better to estimate more ice than you need, than to end up running out of ice.   

While there isn’t a precise calculation to find the exact amount of ice you will use, having just a few pieces of information will get you a close estimation. There are a few rules of thumb for estimating ice – for instance, a full-service restaurant uses around 1.5 pounds of ice in customer beverages, and a hospital uses approximately 10 pounds per patient per day. 

Our commercial ice estimator can help you figure out how much ice you should plan for.  

High Traffic Days  

Keep in mind, an average estimate of the amount of ice you need will cover most days, but it won’t be adequate for your busiest days. 

You may only use a few hundred pounds of ice on an average day – but many businesses find they double or even triple their ice usage for special events, holidays, and other high traffic days. These are the days your business is most likely to run out of ice. Make sure you plan to have enough for these days, rather than the average, low-usage days. 

Where Do I Use the Most Ice?  

Now that you have a closer estimate, you need to consider other areas you use ice in your business. Many businesses use ice for a lot of reasons, not just for beverages.

For example, if you plan on setting up a beer trough for game days, you’ll be using a lot more ice during football season.   

Multiple stations like under-bar ice bins and wait stations are also a factor.   

A standard bar ice bin holds between 50-120 lbs of ice. If a bar back is running 5-gallon buckets of ice, how much of the ice bin are they filling? How often are they filling it? That’s a figure you need to pay attention to, especially for large bars and restaurants with multiple stations. On busy days numbers can accumulate.     

By identifying how much ice these areas use, you can add that into your overall ice needs to get the most accurate number.  

How Do I Pick the Right Sized Ice Machine? 

Once you have an approximate estimate, it’s time to pick the right ice maker and bin. First, it’s important to know how they work.  

An ice machine’s ice production rating is the amount of ice it can produce in 24-hours under ideal conditions. For instance, a Hoshizaki IM-500 produces 500 lbs of ice in 24-hours, provided it maintains an air  temperature of 70 degrees and water temperature of 50 degrees. A commercial ice machine will produce ice and deposit it into the ice bin until it reaches a sensor. At that point, the sensor signals the ice maker to stop producing ice. 

Bin capacity is the maximum amount of ice an ice bin can hold if it was filled to the top and leveled off, which doesn’t happen unless someone physically levels the ice off. When ice is left to drop on its own, it creates a mound. As the ice level rises, the peak of the mound reaches the sensor, shutting off the machine before the bin fills. Without someone to level off the ice as it drops, a bin will hold about 80-85% of its max capacity before triggering the machine to turn off.

The Art of Sizing an Ice Machine 

To demonstrate the difficulty in sizing an ice machine, let’s look at an example. 

Assume you estimate you need 500 lbs of ice every morning to operate without running out. Naturally, you go with a Hoshizaki KM-600 (which produces 600 lbs of ice) and a 500 lb bin. You’ve covered ice production and bin capacity, right? 

Not so fast.

For one, your machine will only produce around 400 lbs of ice before it triggers the bin switch – unless you level it off, of course.   

The second thing you must consider is if you leave for the night with an empty ice bin and return 12 hours later, you won’t walk into your business with a full 400 lbs of ice – you’ll only have around 300 lbs.  

Your KM-600 is working perfectly, but you only gave it half the time it needed to produce 600 lbs of ice. If you need all 500 lbs right away in the morning, you would need a bigger unit and a larger bin to accommodate your needs.   

Go Big or Go Home 

Remember having more ice than you need is better than not having enough. One misstep in sizing an ice machine can cost you if you’re not careful. If you buy a small ice maker that doesn’t fit your needs, you could find yourself purchasing additional ice, or needing a bigger unit later. Both are costly alternatives to choosing the right size ice machine from the beginning.   

If you’re asking, “How much ice do I need for my business?” let the experts at Easy Ice size the right model for you. Contact us at 866-easyice.