How Much Ice Does My Commercial Kitchen Need?
Let’s imagine you’re sitting at your favorite restaurant about to order a drink. Maybe an iced tea with a fresh squeeze of lemon, or maybe it’s time for something a little stronger. On the rocks, of course. Now let’s imagine the drink you ordered is served at room temperature. That cool, refreshing flavor is just lukewarm. And the reason? The kitchen is out of ice. While you’re waiting for the ice maker to catch up (or worse, for someone on staff to get back from purchasing bagged ice), that restaurant is slipping a few notches in your opinion. The disappointment is real.
How can commercial kitchens avoid this type of inconvenience? By installing the right ice machine, sized to meet the needs of their industry at scale.
How Much Ice Is Enough?
When you’re evaluating your kitchen’s ice needs, you’ll need to consider the type of service you provide and how you use ice. Hotels use ice at a higher volume than most school cafeterias, while bars and restaurants will need more ice than hotels. As you can tell, commercial ice machine production will vary across industries, but a well-run kitchen will meet industry averages with 20% to spare in case of a sudden spike in customer volume.
With that in mind, let’s explore how ice is used in popular commercial settings and how you can calculate the amount you’ll need. When you’re finished, you’ll be equipped to make an informed decision about your current commercial ice machine or plan for a future purchase.
On average, restaurants should calculate 1.5 lbs of ice per customer. However, there are many factors that could cause that number to increase. The style of service your restaurant provides and the type of drinks you serve can affect how much ice your ice maker will need to produce to keep your guests happy and your kitchen running smoothly. If you’re a restaurant owner, you should consider the following factors that will add or subtract from the 1.5 lbs of ice your average customer will require:
- Does your restaurant serve alcoholic beverages other than beer? If your bar is serving up frozen and mixed drinks, count on serving an average of 3 lbs of ice per customer.
- Does your restaurant serve guests a complimentary glass of ice water? That will add about 5 ounces of ice for every guest.
- Does your restaurant have a self-service beverage station where guests can refill their drinks? Your guests will refill their drinks more frequently and take to-go drinks, so count on between 2-3 lbs of ice per customer with this serving model.
- Does your restaurant serve guests primarily through a drive-thru? Typically this means you’ll need less ice than average since you won’t be refilling drinks. To calculate how much ice you’ll need per person, take the average size of the drinks ordered and divide it in half.
To make people feel at home in your hotel, you’ll want to make sure guests have access to ice at all times. Most hotels have an ice dispenser on each floor where guests can serve themselves. On average, each hotel room will need about 5 lbs of ice per day. Depending on the number of rooms on each floor, you may need a commercial ice machine that can produce hundreds of pounds of ice per day.
Some hotels allow guests to fill their coolers from the hotel ice dispenser. If this is your policy, you’ll need to allow another 2-3 lbs of ice per room, per day.
To calculate how much ice your hotel bar, restaurant, or event hall will need, follow the calculation guidelines for that specific service type.
Hospitals and Clinics
Healthcare providers consume a large portion of ice both for patient meals and medical purposes. Ice packs are used to reduce inflammation and help with patient recovery, which means it's critically important to patients’ health outcomes to have enough ice at all times.
The industry standard for hospitals and clinics is approximately 10 lbs of ice every day for each patient bed.
This calculation is based on serving each patient three meals per day and meeting medical needs. Hospital cafeterias and staff break rooms will need to be calculated separately.
Hosting a wedding reception, graduation, or birthday party means lots of guests and lots of ice. An event center will need a commercial ice machine that can produce on average 2 lbs of ice per person. Remember that ice machines need time to produce ice, so weekends where your event space may have back-to-back events may require multiple ice machines.
Grocery and Convenience Stores
Grocery stores and convenience stores use ice both for serving drinks to guests and displaying and storing perishable food items. For convenience stores that serve fountain drinks, you’ll calculate your ice needs based on the drive-thru ice calculation listed above, since most customers aren’t coming back for refills.
For grocery stores that have fresh meat and produce displays, a bed of packed ice is a necessity for keeping food fresh. On average, calculate 35 lbs of ice per cubic foot of display space.
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