What Kind of Ice Machine Does Sonic Use? The Burning Question, Answered

If you’ve ever been to Sonic or any other restaurant that offers the unique, nugget ice that Sonic provides, you’ve probably asked yourself at one point or another: “What kind of ice machine does Sonic use?” The chewable, frozen gem-sized treats can be eaten on their own and also work well to cool your drinks. They taste light, fluffy, and refreshing. This ice has even found Facebook pages dedicated to its existence. These one-of-a-kind frozen treats come from none other than a (cue the drumroll) Scotsman Nugget Ice Machine!

In 1981, Scotsman Industries created their first nugget machine, and for the next 30 years, this ice has seen its popularity explode, especially when Sonic began offering it in their signature beverages. When people found out that the ice in their glasses was as enjoyable as their drinks themselves, its popularity skyrocketed even further. Other companies quickly took note of the popularity spike, and began developing their own nugget producing machines. Ice-O-Matic offered ‘Pearls’. Hoshizaki offered ‘Cubelets’, and Manitowoc stuck with the traditional ‘Nugget’ name. Scotsman’s ice maker however, was and has remained the machine preferred by Sonic Drive-In.

If you’re looking for the exact ice machine that makes Sonic Ice, you would be led to one of Scotsman’s commercial ice making heads. Scotsman offers four of these units: the N0422, the N0622, the N0922, and the N1322. These four machines provide anywhere between 300 and 1300 pounds of nugget ice on a daily basis. Generally, the size of the establishment and the demand for ice will determine which machine is used in each location. The hours which the business is open for operation will also play a role in the purchase of a suitable machine. With these ice making heads, a compatible storage bin is required, which can also be chosen based on the amount of ice required on hand during peak business hours.

Many new establishments are choosing nugget producing machines in their businesses due to its boom in popularity. You can find nugget ice at Taco Time in the Northwestern United States, at Zaxby’s in the South and Southeast, and at Bess Eaton Coffee Shop in the Northeast (best iced coffee I’ve ever had, personally). While these businesses do not have the following that Sonic has, their use of nugget ice has sparked the interest of their customers, and provided new customers as well. This ice is so popular that, at one Sonic location, when a manager’s aging nugget ice machine finally passed away and he replaced them with a cube producing ice machine, he nearly had a mutiny on his hands, facing screaming customers that were demanding he bring back the chewable ice! (He later replaced the cube producing machine with two nugget ice machines to satisfy his customers.)

For those that want to provide nugget ice in a residential setting and don’t require 300 pounds or more a day, there are quite a few undercounter ice machines that make the same ice as Sonic. Scotsman once provided the best undercounter nugget ice machine in the industry, a unit called the NU130. They recently discontinued this model however, much to the chagrin of ice lovers everywhere. Ice-O-Matic – a subdivision of Scotsman Industries – now offers the GEMU090, which is the closest substitute for Scotsman’s NU130. The GEMU090 from creates around 85 pounds of nugget ice per day. It creates slightly less ice per day when compared to the NU130, but costs hundreds of dollars less. It is also identical in size and style. This ice machine has replaced the NU130 in terms of popularity when it comes to finding a high quality, residential, undercounter nugget ice machine.

For restaurant owners, a nugget ice machine will allow you to explore new beverages, and offer creative drinks, unique to your establishment. This ice will also provide a boost in your business’s popularity. If you are simply someone who loves Sonic ice to the point that you must have an undercounter nugget ice machine in your home, the GEMU090 is an excellent choice. For those that love chewing away at these delicious frozen treats, nugget ice is definitely on the “must have” list.

Scotsman had no idea how popular nugget ice would become when they created it over 30 years ago, but today, they are very glad that they didn’t put this idea “on ice”. It’s no coincidence that Scotsman’s nuggets resemble small frozen gems. Creating this ice was truly like finding a diamond in the rough. To find the perfect Sonic-style Nugget Ice Machine for your home or business, consider consulting the Ice Experts at Ice Machines Plus.

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