The Problem With Ice Machines

You might find it odd that an ice machine company would start a blog with a “problem” with their ice machine, but hear me out. Sanitation and food safety are always the first concerns of operators when they are investigated. That’s great news! But if that were the case, why is the Internet filled with pictures of ice machines that have some people swearing off ice? It doesn’t have to be this way! The reality is that while many foodservice operators know their hot end equipment inside out, the cold end equipment is a bit of a mystery. We in the commercial ice industry need to make operators as familiar with their ice machines as they are with griddles.

The beauty of a griddle is that it’s right there, right in front of you, and there’s nothing to hide. If it’s not cleaned out the night before, it’s the first thing the crew will notice the next morning. Not so with an ice machine. Quality ice machines are designed to prevent foreign matter from getting into the ice machine. An ice machine is usually a metal box that you need a screwdriver to open, and when you do, there’s a plastic shield (water curtain) in front of the most important part of the food area. In reality, most interactions with an “ice machine” are actually interactions with a trash can!

Customer surveys also show that spending time with the technician during the installation process can have a lasting impact. Your ice machine purchase is a significant investment, so take the time to ask questions and familiarize yourself with the machine’s key components. Ask what to look for (gray-pink film) and, just as importantly, where to look (anything that came in contact with water!). Ask to remove the water curtain and other components. At trade shows, we often have operators remove parts from the machine. They are often intimidated at first, but after one or two attempts, they usually get it right

Another great tool for operators is a cleaning checklist. I smile every time I see a checklist taped to the side of an ice machine that shows what was checked, when, and by whom. Since ice machines are enclosed by design, it’s easy to forget when you last cleaned them, or what needs to be checked each time. A simple checklist can serve as a visual reminder—maybe not as intuitive as a greasy griddle, but certainly more appealing and reassuring to customers!

Like any kitchen appliance, ice machines require proper maintenance. While it may seem a little daunting when you first open the door or lift the panel, you’ll quickly discover that a quality ice maker is designed to be easy to use and simple to clean.