Pub Landlord Advice - Ice Makers

Ice Making Machines

Ice is a vital component of many drinks and the average customer will not enjoy their drink without ice which means they will spend less time in your pub and that means fewer sales for you.

Keeping up with ice consumption and providing clean, clear ice for your customers means choosing the right ice machine for your pub. There are several key factors that can help you find the right ice machine for your business.

It is important to choose an ice machine that will fit easily into the space you have available in your premises. If it takes up too much room it can affect the speed of service and may cause accidents. There are machines that are upright and those that are horizontal depending on how much room you have available as well as the capacity you need. If space is at a premium there are compact ice machines or counter top ice makers, though their size will limit the amount of ice you will be able to produce.

You need an ice machine that will make enough ice to fulfil your current needs as well as allowing for future growth and times of peak demand.

These machines are some of the more costly items you are likely to purchase for your pub but there are a variety of machines available in a variety of price ranges. Most of them are reasonably priced especially considering how long they will last and the type of value they provide for your business.

Most ice makers will make either cubes or crushed (flaked) ice, a few on the market are dual purpose. In all probability you will only need ice cubes. If you do need crushed ice for cocktails or smoothies or for your kitchen you could consider buying either a smaller crushed ice machine or buying a manual or powered ice crusher.

Taking the time to compare models and consider your ice making needs are two important parts of choosing the right commercial grade ice machine for your pub. Since ice is a vital part of your offering, the importance of this appliance to your business should not be overlooked or understated. A modern ice machine will make a constant supply of clean, fresh ice that will help your customers thoroughly enjoy their beverages which leads to increased sales and increased profits for your business. The right ice machine can make all the difference in your pub.

No matter where the ice maker is located, it needs a source of cold water, electricity and drainage so make sure all three are available when choosing where to site your machine in the pub. Most bars have insufficient space to locate these machines behind the bar so cellar/beer store areas are often a favoured location.

Ice… just another foodstuff

We all use ice in our pubs, whether it’s put in drinks or filling wine buckets and like anything else we serve to our customers we should consider it a food product. However, many publicans who run otherwise scrupulously clean and hygienic premises often neglect to handle ice properly. That’s why as a pub operator it’s essential you ensure that correct ice handling procedures are in place and being adhered to.

Once you understand ice must be considered as a food product and should be treated like any other food product that it has a limited shelf life or can become contaminated by drink spillages, food or broken glass it should be disposed of correctly.

If you produce, prepare or serve food you should follow the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) principles to ensure that the food is safe to eat and ice has to be considered in the same vein.

When your staff or you are handling or serving ice, a strict system and guidelines should always be followed and staff must receive appropriate training, especially if you are sharing one ice machine between your pub kitchen and your bar(s).

Before handling ice

As with any food you must always wash your hands thoroughly before working with ice and, in by following best practice, your employees to report any symptoms such as vomiting, diarrohea, fever or nausea to you.

If you are using any kind of container (beer or bottle display, table-side wine chiller or ice bucket) to store and scoop ice from or to store and cool bottles then you must think about the location of the container. For instance, if it’s stored under the bar counter it must be located in such a position as to ensure drink spillages do not directly contaminate the ice.

Even though your bar might get very busy at times you must maker sure the container has a lid to cover and protect the ice from direct contamination and best practice would dictate it’s not located directly under a bar counter. You and your staff know an ice bucket is an ice bucket and it will be used for storing ice during service, but other containers, such as cool boxes, should be clearly labelled “Ice Only” and you andyour staff must not use it for storing anything else. For instance on a busy night it might seem like a great idea to chuck a couple of wine bottles in your ice box to keep the maximum bottles cooled or to rapidly cool a wine down from room temperature, but if the ice in your ice box is destined to be served in drinks then you mustn’t contaminate by storing bottles in it.

Scoop and serve

When scooping the ice, do not touch ice with your bare hands. Always use clean, sanitised scoops, tongs or shovels. Most importantly don’t use glasses as a scoop, even if it speeds up service, for if they were to become chipped they could contaminate the ice with broken glass chippings.

Just as your chef/cook stores their utensils and knives away when not in use, so you must ensure any ice handling utensils are stored to prevent contamination outside of the ice bucket ice or ice box and take care that they are cleaned and santised properly before and after use; make it part of your setting up and clearing down procedures for operating your bar(s).

Again, not matter how busy your pub gets you should keep ice buckets used for storing ice used in drinks at the back of the bar area and customers shouldn’t be allowed to help themselves. Also make sure you provide ice tongs in every ice bucket for your staff to use. You should also avoid putting dirty glasses, plates or rubbish/bottle bins nearby your ice storage/serving points.

Disposing of ice

If the ice has become contaminated or has been used to store bottles or food it must be disposed of after use. Once the ice has started to melt it must not be re frozen. Any remaining ice at the end of the shift should be disposed of. Ideally you should use a three compartment sink and let it melt away.

Top Tip – during hot periods or when the dreaded hose-pipe bans are imposed, use the melted ice water to irrigate your hanging baskets or other planting areas, if nothing else you’ll save a little on your water bill!


As with all HACCP systems, cleanliness of all food storage and preparation areas is important. Part of inspections by an environmental health officer, is to check that the business has an appropriate HACCP based food safety management system in place and ice handling is covered off in procedures.


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