Olivia MarcyRestaurants & Commercial Kitchens

Do You Need an Ice Machine Or Daily Ice Delivery?

In the restaurant industry, where every detail counts, one seemingly simple element plays a crucial role: ice. Making ice at the location eliminates the costs associated with daily ice delivery. These costs include transportation fees and additional charges from suppliers.

Many restaurant owners wonder: should I invest in an on-site commercial ice machine or rely on daily ice deliveries from a supplier? In this blog, we’ll unpack the pros and cons of delivery from an ice supplier and buying a commercial ice maker.

On-Site Ice Machine


Cost Efficiency

Investing in an on-site ice machine may require an initial investment, but it proves cost-effective over time. By producing ice on-premises, the recurring expenses associated with daily ice deliveries, such as transportation and supplier mark-ups, are eliminated. This leads to significant long-term savings, making the upfront investment a strategic financial decision for your restaurant.


Having your own ice machine on-site ice is convenient and improves the efficiency of your daily operations. Staff members can access ice at any time, eliminating the need to wait for scheduled deliveries. This instant availability streamlines workflows, particularly during peak hours when quick and easy access to ice is crucial. The operational efficiency gained through on-site convenience also impacts service speed and overall customer satisfaction.


One of the biggest benefits of an on-site ice machine is its consistent and reliable ice production. No more relying on external suppliers with potential delivery fluctuations—on-site machines ensure a steady and predictable supply of ice. This consistency is vital for meeting the varying demands of a bustling restaurant, especially during peak hours or special events.


With an on-site ice machine, you can think beyond the standard ice cube and ice production limitations. Your own machine can produce a variety of ice types and shapes to suit specific culinary and beverage needs. Plus, you can get an ice maker with a large production capacity—imagine your very own commercial ice machine with 1000lbs of ice production capacity! 


Initial Investment

The biggest obstacle restaurant owners face purchasing a commercial ice machine is the upfront investment. Purchasing and installing commercial-grade ice machines can be a significant financial commitment, particularly for smaller or newly established restaurants operating on tight budgets. If your long-term objective is to grow, scale, and improve efficiency, consider buying a used ice machine for a more cost-effective option. Used restaurant equipment is a great entry point for beginner restaurants.

Ice Machine Maintenance

Another common challenge associated with on-site ice machines is the need for regular equipment maintenance. Commercial ice machines require routine cleaning, filter replacement, and overall upkeep to ensure peak performance. Neglecting maintenance tasks can lead to reduced efficiency, lower ice quality, and even machine malfunctions, resulting in potential downtime. The good news is that at Memphis Ice, we make outsourcing this responsibility easy with our Preventative Maintenance Program.

Related: What To Expect From Our Preventative Maintenance Program

Daily Delivery From A Supplier


No Up Front Cost

Choosing a daily ice delivery service incurs no initial investment related to purchasing and installing an on-site ice machine. This freedom allows restaurants, especially those with limited capital or in the early stages of operation, to redirect funds to other aspects of the business, such as quality ingredients or marketing efforts.

No Ice Machine Maintenance Needed

No ice machine? No maintenance! Daily ice delivery from a supplier means you don’t have to worry about ice machine repairs. You just need an ice machine bin in good working order!

Instant Scalability

If your ice needs change, your ice supplier can adjust their delivery accordingly. Whether it's a busy weekend or a quieter weekday, the flexibility to scale ice quantities ensures that restaurants can efficiently manage their resources and costs, avoiding excess inventory or the risk of running out during peak hours.


Dependency on Supplier

Relying on an external supplier for a critical resource like ice introduces a potential dependency challenge. Restaurants may face disruptions if the supplier runs into issues such as equipment malfunctions, logistical problems, or changes in their business operations. Even with the most reliable supplier, you still run the risk of service interruptions.

Delivery Timing

Timing your ice deliveries just right is crucial for restaurants that rely on external suppliers. Delays or inconsistencies in delivery schedules can lead to serious operational challenges, especially during peak hours. A mismatch between the restaurant's demand and the supplier's delivery timing may result in temporary shortages or excess ice inventory, which can impact both service quality and cost efficiency.

Cost Over Time

While daily ice deliveries may seem cost-effective initially, consider the long-term financial implications. The cumulative cost of ongoing daily deliveries, which includes supplier mark-ups, transportation expenses, and potential service fees, can surpass the upfront investment required for an on-site ice machine. A thorough cost-benefit analysis will help you determine the sustainability of relying on external suppliers over an extended period.

Which Is Right For Your Business?

As you’re assessing your business’s ice needs, here are some helpful considerations to keep in mind:

Restaurant Size & Capacity

The decision between an on-site ice machine and supplier deliveries is tied to the size and capacity of your restaurant. If you’re a larger establishment with higher ice demands, you may find an on-site machine is more suitable, providing continuous access to ice. Smaller venues, on the other hand, might benefit from the flexibility of scalable deliveries, aligning ice supply with their specific needs without the burden of maintaining a machine.

Related: How Much Ice Does My Commercial Kitchen Need?

Financial Considerations

It all comes down to the bottom line, so carefully assess your budget constraints and financial flexibility. Keep in mind that while on-site machines incur an upfront investment, they offer potential long-term savings. Alternatively, daily deliveries may seem cost-effective initially, but the cumulative expenses over time should be scrutinized against the potential return on investment from an on-site solution.

Maintenance Capacity

Committing to routine maintenance tasks is crucial to your decision to buy an ice machine. Some restaurants may have the resources and expertise to manage in-house maintenance for an on-site ice machine. Others might prefer the convenience of outsourcing maintenance to suppliers when opting for daily deliveries.

Get Consistent, Quality Ice with Memphis Ice Machine Company

In the face-off between on-site ice machines and daily deliveries, each option brings its own advantages and challenges. If you’d like to learn more about ice machines, pricing, or routine maintenance for your existing ice machine, schedule a call with our experts! 

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