What Size Commercial Ice Machine Do You Need?


Every commercial kitchen is different and will require different amounts of ice. The right commercial ice machines will keep up with demand without creating a surplus of ice, which may end up being wasted. The table below gives capacity estimates based on how ice is being used. This will help you calculate how many pounds of ice (also known as the “yield”) your machine needs to produce each day.

Food Service

Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Restaurant1.5 lbsPer PersonHalf-Cube
Bar/Cocktail3 lbsPer SeatHalf-Cube
Salad Bar40 lbsPer Cubic FootFlake
Fast Food5 ozPer 7-10 oz DrinkHalf-Cube
8 ozPer 12-16 oz DrinkHalf-Cube
12 ozPer 18-24 oz DrinkHalf-Cube


Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Guest Ice5 lbsPer RoomFull-Cube
Restaurant1.5 lbsPer SeatHalf-Cube
Cocktail3 lbsPer SeatHalf-Cube
Catering1 lbPer PersonHalf-Cube

Convenience Store

Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Beverage6 ozPer 12 oz DrinkHalf-Cube or Nugget
10 ozPer 20 oz DrinkHalf-Cube or Nugget
16 ozPer 32 oz DrinkHalf-Cube or Nugget
Packaged IcePounds per bagx Bags Sold Per DayFull Cube


Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Cafeteria1 lbPer PersonHalf-Cube
Patient Ice10 lbsPer BedNugget

Beverage Service

Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Drinks40% of the cupx Drinks Per DayHalf-Cube or Nugget


Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Seafood Display30 lbsPer Cubic FootFlake
Produce Display60 lbsPer Cubic FootFlake


Type of OperationAmountUsageRecommended Ice Type
Self-Service Beverages1.5 lbsPer StudentHalf-Cube
Full-Service Beverages0.5 lbsPer StudentHalf-Cube

Calculating Your Daily Ice Requirements

Commercial ice machine manufacturers rate their machines based on ice production for a 24-hour period. When calculating the amount of ice needed for your establishment, factor in the following elements:

  • The number of people you need to serve during the day
  • The separate places where ice is used in the restaurant or establishment
  • The type of ice you need in every application (this may mean that more than one type of ice machine is required)

Additional Sizing Considerations for Commercial Ice Machines

Sizing a commercial ice machine is a bit of a guessing game. This is especially true for first-time restaurant owners. The number of people you hope to serve is the most valuable factor in any estimate, but you also need to consider estimates for your busiest days, allow room for growth and factor in environmental conditions.

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  • Estimate customer traffic during peak hours on busy days.

    Be aware of the maximum amount of ice your establishment will need on any given day by estimating how many customers you will see during your busiest day. Use those numbers to calculate your ice-production needs.

  • Consider machine location and environmental conditions.

    The expected 24-hour yield for all commercial ice machines is based on an incoming water temperature of 50 °F and an ambient air temperature of 70 °F. If these or similar conditions cannot be maintained, ice production will suffer. For air-cooled machines, allow several inches of clearance around the machine for proper air flow. Excessively hot and humid environments may require a water-cooled machine, and large-capacity machines may need a remote condenser to maintain production.

  • Overestimate production by 10 to 20% to allow for growth.

    New restaurants should overestimate their ice production needs by as much as 20% to allow for restaurant growth. Overestimating will also help account for fluctuating customer traffic and environmental conditions that can affect ice production, especially on a smaller unit.

  • Purchase an appropriately-sized ice storage bin.

    Regardless of the production capacity of your commercial ice machine, you will only need an ice storage bin or ice dispenser that can hold enough ice to satisfy your busiest rush hour. Calculate how much ice you will need during your busiest hours and purchase a bin that will hold at least that much ice.

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