Jul 06, 2023

The Pros and Cons of Adding Specialty Ice to Your Bar

Specialty ice adds flair to your beverage menu in one, simple step. Want to create eye-catching cocktails? Just add a sphere cube or a Want every single drink poured at your bar to deliver an upscale experience? Serve expensive bourbons, scotches, whiskeys, tequilas, and other fine spirits over perfect square ice. Specialty cubes will upgrade the aesthetic of your drinks and give your customers the sense they’ve landed somewhere special. Not every restaurant or bar has this kind of ice. If yours does, you’ll stand out and leave a lasting impression.

Carrying specialty ice isn’t all about looks. Thanks to their density, square cubes and sphere cubes are the slowest melting on the market. Fans of expensive liquors will appreciate the opportunity to sip as slowly as they like without the ice watering the liquor down. Meanwhile, you and your bartenders won’t have to worry about overpouring.

Another point to keep in mind: if you want to serve frozen margaritas or other slushie-inspired drinks, you’re going to need soft ice. The cubes you typically use for water, soda, and liquor on the rocks are too hard for most blenders to crush daily without meeting an early death. Whether you choose flake ice or cubelet ice, one of these soft, specialty ice types will make it easier to create frozen cocktails and prolong the life of your blenders.

Adding another ice machine to your business operations means taking on the new machine’s maintenance costs. All commercial ice machines require professional cleaning and inspection at least every six months, and in some environments, more frequent visits from your trusted service technician will be necessary. An average ice machine maintenance visit usually costs $400-$500, and while it may be tempting to skip it altogether to save money, that’s a risky mistake to make with a specialty ice machine.

Consistent, high-quality maintenance is critically important for specialty ice machines, as these units are more delicate and prone to breakdowns than standard models. Professional cleaning and inspection help prevent mechanical failure, underproduction, and costly repairs. Proper maintenance is also the only way to keep the ice clean. Mold, slime, dirt, and biofilm are more noticeable in a large cube like the sphere or 2×2 square than in standard cubes. The last thing you need is a customer posting a bad review, complete with cringeworthy picture, because of dirty ice!

Specialty ice machines are often more expensive than standard ice machines, despite the fact they make less ice per day. Restaurant and bar owners shopping for their first specialty ice machine are probably in for some sticker shock. Hoshizaki’s unique sphere ice machine, along with their extra-large 2×2 square cuber, sells for $6,000 on average through most food service equipment dealers. While ice machines that make standard size square cubes and nugget ice may be cheaper than that, expect to end up in the $2000-$6000 range.

If a $6,000 specialty ice machine isn’t in your budget, don’t give up just yet! Renting the ice machine instead of buying it can make your specialty ice goal a reality. Many business owners who already own a standard ice machine find that renting a specialty ice machine makes more sense than forking over the money to purchase instead. Renting is not only easier on the wallet, it also provides flexibility. If, after a year or two, the specialty ice proves to be less popular than you hoped, simply terminate the rental agreement without feeling like you wasted several thousand dollars on a machine you’ll no longer use.

All-inclusive ice machine subscriptions are both the most cost-effective and the most convenient way to add a specialty ice machine to your back of house. In addition to the ice machine, this kind of rental solution covers professional maintenance, repairs, and emergency backup ice. That spares you from spending a large amount of money upfront and also saves you money on ice machine upkeep over time. If your subscription provider employs technicians with solid ice machine expertise and keeps a diligent maintenance schedule, you won’t have to worry about your specialty ice machine failing on you frequently or wonder if it’s being well-cared for.

Competition is fierce in the restaurant and bar industry. Setting your business apart takes creativity. Why not make one of the simplest moves toward distinction and add specialty ice to your alcoholic beverages? It’s easy with an all-inclusive ice machine subscription.

John Mahlmeister is the chief operating officer and co-founder of Easy Ice. Co-headquartered in Phoenix, AZ and Marquette, MI, Easy Ice is the national leader in the full-service ice machine subscription industry with warehouse and distribution facilities in Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Denver. Since its founding in 2009, Easy Ice has rapidly grown the number of ice machines under management to over 30,000 units across 47 states. The Easy Ice commercial ice machine subscription programs include installation, cleaning, preventive maintenance, repairs, and backup ice. For more information, please visit Find them on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

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