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Ice Demand: Planning for the Peaks and Valleys


[posted August 25, 2011]

Ice Cubes

The streets of Laconia, New Hampshire, Sturgis, South Dakota and Daytona Beach, Florida are owned by motorcycles and their riders during "bike week" rallies, when the population of these communities doubles and local hotel, motel, restaurant, and bar businesses boom. Spring break in any warm and wet climate - from South Carolina to Florida to southern California - where vacationing college students descend along with their appetites is the best time for the local service industry businesses.

If your business is seasonal, like an ice cream truck that tours the neighborhoods during the summer months or a New England crab shack that closes up for the winter, you understand that demand fluctuates greatly from season to season. That same concept applies to your ice production requirements. When you are looking to invest in an ice machine, you need to know your peaks in order to accurately determine the size and production rate of the equipment, so you are not caught with an empty ice bin and demanding customers.

For example, perhaps you provide one or more of the treats that can be found at so many autumn country fairs, like deep-fried corn-on-the-cob, apple fritters, candy apples or frozen lemonade. Maybe you follow the fair route and schedule for as long as possible each year. But you know that at some point you will return home to recuperate, replenish, and plan for next year's fairs. You will figure out where and when you had your best sales or when you ran out of certain ingredients. Next year will be even better because you will have learned from experience. You will run your numbers and gauge when you need to order supplies and ingredients and you will be better prepared for next year.

That analysis and tracking is obviously essential to running your business in general. It also applies to knowing how much ice you need at particular times, on specific days, and of course, during different seasons of the year.

Maybe your restaurant sits along the route that throngs of tourists use to visit one of our many fine national parks and campgrounds. You see the roads and parking lots and attractions filled to the brim with cars and campers. But you can anticipate that by the time school begins in September, visitor numbers will begin to dwindle. Your food supplies and ingredients on your shelves need to be adjusted significantly so you don't let anything go to waste and yet still can provide for the customers you do serve.

The ice machine that you purchase has to be able to meet the demand of the peaks but also should be able to "dial down" and provide just enough for your average, regular business requirements. The option for ice machine equipment to go into a "standby mode" when the bin is full is almost a required feature these days. If you can afford an ice making system that you can electronically set and store ice production rates on a weekly or even daily schedule, that can definitely help prevent wasting resources (Scotsman and Manitowoc offer this with their newest ice machines). Remember, when energy and water are used to make ice that sits in the bin, then melts, then drains out of the bin - that is your money trickling out the back of your equipment.

It can be a trial dealing with the highs and lows of customer traffic and demand. The essential questions, of course, are centered on managing inventory levels - building and decreasing to maximize use and minimize loss of investment. Therefore, keep track of your ice - how much ice your employees use per customer beverage, the times of day that you notice the ice bin is full or nearly empty, and when and how long your ice machine is running.

As every foodservice business owner or manager knows, demand can cycle daily, weekly, monthly and annually. If you don't accurately analyze the demand for your products or services, and for your ice, in order to plan for the future, you might end up closing up shop not just for the season, but for a long time. At Ice Machines Plus, we have a few ice machines that offer programmable ice production. Manitowoc offers this with their Indigo ice machines, and Scotsman ice machines have a probe to allow for programmable ice production. These ice machines will help for weekly peaks and valleys, and conserve more energy than an ice machine left to run continuously.

Ice Machines Plus