Advice Column

When you're just starting out with short term rentals, it seems there are endless decisions to make.  At first you'll fumble around a bit, but eventually you'll gain confidence as you find out what works and what doesn't.  I'll share my tips with you, and what I've learned along the way.  Be sure to follow me on Houfy to read my latest posts.

Should I Leave Leftover Condiments for 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.  And there are many factors to consider when deciding what will work best for your property.

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 to see if they will direct you to the info.  Then you can 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. 

Now that you're in the clear with local law, you'll want to consider guest count, average length of stay, and storage space.  Put yourself in your guests' shoes, and ask yourself what you would like to find available. Does your place sleep a lot of people who typically stay a week?  If so, you probably want to clear everything out of the fridge and leave as much empty cabinet space as possible.  Keep in mind, large parties staying a full week are going to do some major grocery shopping, and will appreciate not having to pile their food on the counter tops.

On the other hand, if your guests are typically a single couple staying two nights, then storage space is not as big an issue. Later if you get a family staying a week, go ahead and clear the condiments out to leave more space.  It's more convenient for a couple not to have to buy a new bottle of ketchup, mustard, and mayo for a single meal - versus a family of four staying an entire week.  Keep in mind, couples staying two nights tend to go out to dinner more often too.  Families with kids usually cook more meals in the rental.

Many owners tell their housekeepers to take leftovers home, and whatever they don't want can be left behind.  My personal rule when deciding whether to toss or keep, is to be sure the total condiments never exceed the space of one side drawer in the fridge.  If they exceed more than that, it's time to toss some out.  

Don't leave expired items and things like open milk jugs, half eaten tubs of ice cream, and open jars of pickles. You and I may use the "smell test" at home, but just don't go there with your guests.   Do leave squeeze bottles of jelly, condiments, salad dressing, or individually sealed items. Be sure to always keep these sanitary and clean.

Feel free to leave opened bottles of olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.  Some guests may actually expect the latter if those items were supplied at a previous rental.  But no need to feel obligated to stock oils, unless you want to of course.  I chose not to stock oil, and only leave what other guests leave behind.  

Important: Always, always make sure it is clear to guests that your housekeeper did not forget to clean the fridge!  My fridge always looks sparkling clean, and there is no question the condiments were intentionally left there.  On my departure checklist it says that guests are welcome to leave anything behind that they think the next guests will find useful.  My pre-arrival info also mentions to help themselves to anything in the cabinets or fridge.  So be sure to cover all the bases if you decide to leave some condiments.  You don't want to receive a phone call from an angry guest claiming the housekeeper forgot to clean the fridge.  

But what about liability if the guest gets sick?

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.  And think about how many restaurants have opened ketchup, mustard, and sauce bottles on the table. Just imagine the number of customers who have touched, coughed, and let their kids play with these condiments while waiting for their food.  But if you're worried that guests left condiments in the heat or slobbered all over them, then don't leave them.  Sometimes it's just better to sleep at night.  

Many fellow rental owners will say they'd be disgusted to find condiments upon arrival.  I have not found this to be the case with my guests. In all of these years, I've never even had a single person comment about them.  And I've never had guests throw them in the trash.  Maybe your guests will be different though.

Be sure to follow me on Houfy if you would like to read more of my posts.

A Touch of Luxury Cabin - Mill Spring
Cabin in Mill Spring. Welcome to "A Touch of Luxury" located on the border of Mill Spring and Lake Lure. This is a custom-built, 1672 sq. ft., 2 BR/2BA log cabin, 15.9 miles from the Tryon Internation...

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