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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.

iceberg in ocean
Type of Operation Usage   Recommended Ice Type

Food Service


1.5 lbs Per Person Half-Cube


3 lbs Per Seat Half-Cube

Salad Bar

40 lbs Per Cubic Foot Flake

Fast Food

5 oz Per 7-10 oz Drink Half-Cube
  8 oz Per 12-16 oz Drink Half-Cube
  12 oz Per 18-24 oz Drink Half-Cube


Guest Ice

5 lbs Per Room Full-Cube


1.5 lbs Per Seat Half-Cube


3 lbs Per Seat Half-Cube


1 lb Per Person Half-Cube

Convenience Store


6 oz Per 12 oz Drink Half-Cube or Nugget
  10 oz Per 20 oz Drink Half-Cube or Nugget
  16 oz Per 32 oz Drink Half-Cube or Nugget

Packaged Ice

Pounds per bag x Bags Sold Per Day Full Cube



1 lb Per Person Half-Cube

Patient Ice

10 lbs Per Bed Nugget

Beverage Service


40% of the cup x Drinks Per Day Half-Cube or Nugget


Seafood Display

30 lbs Per Cubic Foot Flake

Produce Display

60 lbs Per Cubic Foot Flake

Self-Service Beverages

1.5 lbs Per Student Half-Cube

Full-Service Beverages

0.5 lbs Per Student Half-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)
finger pushing buttons

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.

tape measure
  • 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.

For additional guidance on selecting the right size ice machine for your business, check out this short video:

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