Although there is no one-size-fits all way to figure out what size of commercial ice machine and ice machine bin you need, below you will find a method to get a rough estimate based on our best industry knowledge and commercial ice machine experience.
The combination of our recommendations and your own restaurant expertise should put you in a pretty good place to find your perfect ice machine match!
How Much Ice Do I Need Per Person?
By industry standards, the estimated ice usage per customer in your typical restaurant is 2 lbs. This goes up to 3-5 lbs if you are also serving cocktails. When calculating usage though, feel free to tweak these numbers based on your own experience.
What Size of Commercial Ice Machine Do I Need?
Ice machine sizes are measured in lbs produced every 24 hours.
To figure out a good ice machine size for your restaurant, start with this equation:
Take the maximum number of people you plan to serve in a day and multiply by the estimated ice usage for your establishment to equal the size of ice machine you need.
We will use this equation in a real life example in a moment.
What Size of Commercial Ice Bin Do I Need?
In a typical multi seating restaurant you want the bin to be the about same size or slightly smaller than the ice machine. This way your bin will be able to recoup much of its capacity each night and keep a steady level of ice throughout the day. You always want to have some ice left over in the bin at any given time.
For a restaurant that has drastic rushes and lulls, you need to be sure that you have enough ice to cover those rushes and then still have enough left over for your regular crowd.
To calculate the most you would need to survive a rush:
Start with the number of customers you see during your largest rush and multiply by their ice usage. Then take the number of customers you normally see in the hour before hour after the rush, and multiply by their average ice usage. Add the two numbers together to get your minimum ice machine storage bin size to get you through your rush have some left over for the following hour.
Now let’s put those equations to work.
Arizona Cafe usually serves between 200-250 people per day but has a goal to serve 300 people. They average about 20 customers per hour but their busiest period is the lunch rush, where they can serve up to 60 an hour. The lunch rush usually lasts about 3 hours.
To calculate a good ice machine size, we are going to go with the goal of 300. This way, when they meet their service goal they will be prepared. Also, no one ever complains about having too much ice. When in doubt, over estimate.
So 300 customers a day X 2 lbs of ice each = a 600 lb. ice machine.
To calculate the bin size, we want to make sure they have enough ice for the lunch rush.
180 customers X 2 lbs of ice each = 360 lbs of ice needed during the rush.
Arizona Cafe needs a bin that can dish out 360 lbs for the rush, but we have to remember that they will be using ice before and ice after the rush too. A 550 lb. bin would give them plenty of wiggle room for a larger than expected rush and have ice left for their normal 20 customers per hour.
See, it’s not quite as complicated as it seems! With the right industry knowledge and restaurant experience, picking the right size ice machine and bin can be headache free.
Want to learn more about ice machines? Read our full Commercial Ice Machine Guide.