Cool Down Operations with Ice Machines

The style of compressor, concept type and customer traffic patterns are all factors in recommending the best icemaker for an operation.

Almost every restaurant and foodservice operation uses ice. Helping an operator choose an ice machine that makes the most sense from an initial outlay, operating-cost and savings perspective, then, is a skill every salesperson should cultivate.

  • Compressors for ice machines come in three general forms: air-cooled, water-cooled and remote. Air-cooled machines rely on a simple fan to regulate the temperature of a unit's compressor. However, if the area where the ice machine resides has a high ambient temperature, as is often the case in commercial kitchens, the fan can be ineffective and even reduce the unit's output. Air-cooled machines also typically require several inches of open space around the fan's intake vent. Water-cooled units can provide more constant production levels, but also require water and drainage lines, resulting in a higher operational cost. Remote compressors are generally placed on an operation's rooftop, which makes the noise and heat they generate non-factors. If an area experiences high temperatures during warmer months, though, a remote compressor placed outside will not perform efficiently.
  • In order to specify ice machines properly, it is important to understand how much ice the foodservice operation requires each day. The types of drinks they serve, presence of a salad bar or other buffet station that relies on ice for food holding and the style of operation are among the factors that impact ice usage. Once a location's ice needs are determined consult volume guides provided by ice machine manufacturers to identify the machine that best addresses their requirement.
  • Foodservice operators should purchase ice machines with an eye toward peak demand, not average demand. Operators caught in an ice shortage will often see their margins significantly eroded.
  • Traditionally, ice machines were designed for first in, last out distribution of ice. This system can easily result in ice remaining in the storage bin for long periods of time, which can negatively impact its quality. Some units introduced over the last several years, however, distribute ice so the newest cubes are harvested to the back of the bin, allowing the oldest ice to be served first. This prevents weeks-old ice from being served to customers.
  • Icemakers and storage bins are typically sold separately, which can allow an operation to purchase the two strategically. For instance, if a restaurant has high volume on the weekends but does less business during the week, it can purchase a large bin in conjunction with a lower-output machine. The operator can store ice produced but not needed during the week and use it during the weekend's heavy periods.
  • Many ice machine manufacturers offer units that produce specially shaped ice, such as contoured cubes and small chewable ice nuggets. These types of ice typically displace more liquid than standard cubes, so they can cut an operator's beverage expense.
  • Purchasing a water filtration unit for an ice machine will not only result in higher-quality ice, but also help reduce slime and scale on the inside of the machine and its storage bin. In addition, many units are constructed with anti-microbial materials, which should also cut back on cleaning requirements.
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