Is It Gross to Leave Condiments or Food From Previous Guests?

When stocking the kitchen for your guests, you're likely wondering if they'll expect, appreciate, or even be disgusted by leftover condiments. Many of us hate the thought of throwing away perfectly good food...right? I know I do. Well, there's no right or wrong answer to this question. There are many factors to consider when deciding what will work best for your property.

Carl And Bridget
3 years ago
3 min read

The first thing to do is check your local laws. In some areas it's considered a code violation to leave open food for the next guests. Just ask a few long time owners in your area and see if they can direct you to the info. Then determine exactly what is allowed, and what's off limits. 

Now–if leaving any kind of condiment behind already disgusts need to read any further.

Leave Guests Plenty of Room for Their Stuff

Now that you're in the clear with your local laws, the next thing to consider is: guest count, average length of stay, and available storage space. Put yourself in your guests' shoes, and think about what you'd like or not like to find available.

Does your place sleep a lot of guests who typically stay a week? If so, you'll probably want to clear out the entire fridge and leave as much cabinet space as possible. Keep in mind, large parties staying a full week are going to do some major grocery shopping. They'll appreciate not having to pile their food on the counters.

On the other hand, if your guests are mostly couples who stay two nights, space likely isn't a concern. Couples on a weekend getaway tend to eat out more often than a family with young children. It's convenient for couples not to have to buy a new bottle of ketchup, mustard, and mayo for a single meal. Some will appreciate it while others will still purchase their own.

My personal fridge rule is to never allow condiments to exceed the space of one side drawer in the fridge. If it's getting close, it's time to start tossing.

Don't Gross Out Your Guests

You and I may use the "smell test" at home, but just don't go there with your guests.

Don't leave expired items and things like opened milk jugs, half eaten tubs of ice cream, or an almost full jar of spaghetti sauce. Do leave squeeze bottles of jelly, condiments, salad dressing, or individually sealed items. Always keep them sanitary and wiped clean. No sticky drips!

Feel free to leave opened bottles of olive oil, vegetable oil, etc. as well. Be prepared for the rare guest who may expect the latter because "the host at my last place" supplied them. Especially if your guest is new to vacation rentals. Do not feel pressured to stock oils unless it's something you really want to provide. Will you be okay if your brand new $20 bottle of olive oil walks off?

Appearance Is Important!

Always, always make sure it's clear your housekeeper didn't forget to clean the fridge!  Your fridge should always be sparkling clean, leaving no doubt that condiments were left intentionally. Many owners tell their housekeepers to take home opened containers, and leave unwanted sealed items behind.  

Be proactive in preventing a phone call from a guest who might claim the housekeeper didn't clean the fridge. Let guests know in the arrival info that they are welcome to help themselves to anything in the cabinets or fridge. This makes it's clear there is no oversight!

If your guests consistently ask on check out day if they can leave unopened items for the housekeeper, go ahead and add a line to your departure checklist. Many don't feel right about being wasteful when they know someone else would appreciate using what they bought. Plus, t's one less question to answer on departure day.

But What About Liability?

I suppose anything is possible, but food poisoning is the least of my concerns. Yes, there are the possible scenarios like a family leaving mayonnaise outside in the heat, etc. I just hope my guests have enough sense not to do that. 

Just think about how many restaurants leave opened ketchup, mustard, and sauce bottles on the tables. Imagine the hundreds of customers who touch, cough, and let their kids play with these condiments too.

But if you can't get it out of your mind that guests "could have" left condiments in the heat or maybe slobbered all over them, I suggest not leaving them at all. Sometimes it's just better to sleep at night.  

Many fellow owners say they'd be disgusted to find condiments upon arrival, but I have not found this to be the case with my guests. I've never even had a single person comment about them. Have your guests ever mentioned your supply or "lack of" supply of condiments? Leave a comment below.

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