When it comes to breakfast, happy kids=happy parents

(Bowls of fruit in a breakfast buffet)

Making kids happy is a surefire way to improve parents'—and these days, grandparents'—satisfaction during a hotel stay. And as picky as many kids are a mealtime, most are fans of breakfast food.

Be Flexible

Justin Harkey, corporate director of food & beverage for First Hospitality Group, said feeding the younger crowd can be a challenge and an opportunity.

"It gives the culinary team a lot of creative latitude with smiley pancakes, or chocolate chip pancakes or pineapple pancakes to make that experience a little more special for our younger travelers," he said. "Their ever-changing wishy-washiness makes it tough to just pigeonhole it and say, 'This is what is going to be great for kids.' We take more of a flexible approach. Parents are also more focused, myself included, on more of the health-conscious stuff. It is not the chocolate milks anymore, loaded with sugar. It is the 2 percent or the fat-free milk, or even the soy milk. That is important to parents."

Go right to the source

Ryan Bing, senior manager, F&B operations for the Denver Marriott West, said about 8 percent to 10 percent of his property's breakfast patrons are 12 years old or younger. The menu includes pancakes, waffles and made-to-order milkshakes and smoothies.

"We want to make sure we are offering a great dining experience for all of our guests, including our youngest guests," he said. "Breakfast is truly an important part of everyone’s day and we want to offer everyone a great way to start their day of hiking, shopping and visiting the area on the right foot."

This involves asking guests what works and what doesn't.

"We know that happy children usually mean happy parents, so kitchen leadership work closely with our service team to solicit ideas," Bing said. "We also incorporate personal experience from our chef—he has little ones at home, too. Once we have determined what we want to offer, we develop recipes and procedures to ensure a great breakfast every time."

Keep them entertained

About 10 percent of the breakfast diners at the Orlando Airport Marriott Lakeside are kids, according to Anthony Hull, the director of restaurant operations and executive chef. The hotel provides expedited service for children so they don't become restless as well as activity mats and crayons to keep them entertained.