From family restaurants to food trucks to five-star dining and everything in between, all types of restaurants use ice. If you’re just scaling your operations and you’re wondering how to get ice into drinks and coolers, you may be wondering about a commercial ice maker. This can be effective for many restaurateurs, but it’s not the only option. Should you buy a commercial ice maker? Is there a better way? Here are a few considerations.
Should I Buy a Commercial Ice Maker for my Restaurant?
A commercial ice maker can range between $500 and $5,000 or more. This can significantly eat into your budget if you’re starting or scaling up your business. If you’re not using much ice, this investment might not be worth it. Consider how much ice you’re using and how long it will take for you to see a return on your investment.
Get the ice you need with no upfront investment
Find an ice vending machine nearby
How much ice are you really using? Are you only using ice for your drinks? Or are you using ice to keep your foods cold as well? The needs of your kitchen and bar can help you determine how much value you’ll actually get out of a commercial ice maker compared to the investment and upkeep.
Unclean ice makers have been responsible for numerous illness outbreaks. To prevent mold, dust, bacteria and other contaminants from ruining your ice, it’s essential to clean and maintain commercial ice makers properly. You’ll need to clean and sanitize the ice maker every six months to keep the ice safe and high-quality.
If you’re working in a small space, the commercial ice maker’s footprint will also be an important consideration. If the commercial ice maker makes it difficult for your kitchen staff, wait staff or bartenders to move around or properly maintain the space, it might not be a good option.
Alternatives to a Commercial Ice Maker
If you’re not sure if you should buy a commercial ice maker, there are a few alternatives to a commercial ice maker that may be a better option for your restaurant. Consider the following alternatives to a commercial ice maker.
Own an Ice Vending Machine
With an ice vending machine, you can take advantage of clear, clean ice and even add an extra source of income. When you own an ice vending machine near your restaurant location, you’ll have all the ice you need and you can attract additional customers to your lot. The ice vending machine can be installed in any urban or suburban lot with access to a water line and electricity.
Find an Ice Vending Machine Nearby
Find an ice vending machine nearby and you can get all the ice you need at an affordable price. This option requires no upfront investment costs, and allows you to focus your funds on other, more important parts of your business. You’ll still have plenty of ice to fill drinks or keep foods cold, and you can fill up again at any time. You won’t have to worry about replacing parts, or maintaining or cleaning a machine.
Add a Drink Cabinet
Most commercial ice makers make ice to fill drinks. However, this isn’t the only way to keep drinks cool. If drinks aren’t an important part of your menu, a drink cabinet filled with cans or bottles can remove the need for a commercial ice maker while still providing cool drinks. With this option, you can easily change the drinks you have available by simply changing the drinks you purchase.
Since all of your drinks will be contained in cans or bottles, you won’t have to wash extra glassware, either. Add a separate recycling container around your dining area to minimize the environmental impact and get your bottle deposit back.
With the right license, you can encourage customers to bring their own drinks, including alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. This can add a festive, party-like atmosphere to your space, and can work especially well for food trucks or casual, outdoor dining situations. In some cases, these policies may interfere with food safety or sanitation requirements. For alcoholic beverages, these policies may interfere with liquor laws. Double-check these regulations before encouraging customers to bring their own beverages.
A commercial ice maker isn’t the only option available for restaurants, and it may not be the best option for you. Consider these aspects carefully as you make your decision.