Perfect Vacation Spot in Frankenmuth, MI
The William (Tiny) Zehnder, Jr. family owns the Bavarian Inn of Frankenmuth. Tiny’s family purchased Fischer’s Hotel in 1950. Tiny left farming, and he and his young wife, Dorothy (a former waitress at Fischer’s), became the managers of the new business. In his autobiographical book, Tiny wrote that “Dorothy and I started the Bavarian Inn with huge debt, and we built up the business with additions over 30 years.”
“Her area of the Bavarian Inn is the kitchen and mine is someplace else,” said Tiny with a smile. They worked side-by-side to develop the Bavarian Inn Restaurant into what it is today. It has been the persistence and the perseverance of this dynamic team that helped transform the restaurant to its authentic German flavor that is reflected in the building, entertainment, costumes, and food.
Dorothy has always had a passion for cooking and teaching others, and has routinely worked alongside family and team members at the Bavarian Inn Restaurant, inspiring the team to make sure that the quality of our food products is second to none.
Tiny encouraged many other Frankenmuth businesses to either build or remodel their buildings in the Bavarian style. Due to poor health, Tiny resigned from the management of the Bavarian Inn in 2004. He remained Chairman of the Board of Bavarian Inn, Inc. until his death in 2006.
The Legacy Continues
Three generations of the Zehnder family now are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of the restaurant. Dorothy is joined by son William A. (Bill), President, his wife, Karen and daughter, Amy Zehnder Grossi, Co-General Managers. Another daughter of Bill and Karen’s, Katie Zehnder, is also a Manager at Frankenmuth River Place Shops. Tiny & Dorothy’s daughter, Judy Zehnder Keller, is President of the Bavarian Inn Lodge. Judy’s son, Michael Zehnder, has joined her as General Manager at the Lodge and her husband, Don Keller, is the Corporate Treasurer. Judy and Don also have two other children with the family business. Martha Zehnder Keller is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Bavarian Inn Lodge, and William Zehnder Keller is a Manager at Frankenmuth River Place Shops.
Joining the family are many other managers and team members who share the philosophies and work ethic of founders William and Dorothy Zehnder. All managers spend time working in the “front of the house” helping to carve meats at banquets, clear tables, seat and greet guests, and whatever else they can do to make guests feel welcome. Tiny called this ‘management by walking around.’ Please ask to speak with a manager when you visit, and you can share your good experiences with them.
Authentic German Architecture
- Zwiebelturm (onion tower)
- Nesting ‘storks’ on the roof (spring to fall)
- Bel cot
- Tile Roofs
- Stones on the roof
- Murals inside and outside the buildings
- Jäger fences
- Wood carvings
Creating Enjoyable Experiences for Generations
“I remember having a chicken dinner with my family when I was a little child.”
“We spent the weekend at the Lodge for my cousin’s wedding and had a ball.”
“Over the years my children have graduated from the wading to the waterfall pool.”
“We come to the Bavarian Inn every single year on this weekend.”
“My Mom’s mashed potatoes are not as good as Dorothy’s mashed potatoes."
Quality Food and Beverages
- Food is made with time-honored recipes with only the freshest ingredients
- Our own Metzgerei (meat department) makes and smokes our Bratwurst (sausage), Schnitzels, Sauerbraten, and other meats
- Fresh baked goods such as Strudel, pretzels, and Stollen (fruit and nut bread) are made in our bakery daily
- Michigans’ greatest selection of German beer
Appealing, Distinctive Shops
- Unique merchandise, beautifully displayed
- Our own signature products such as seasoning, noodles, and homemade preserves
Innovative Attractions and Special Events
- Family Fun Center surrounded by areas to relax and watch your loved ones
- Indoor Waterpark & Family Fun Center with Four Indoor Pools, Three Whirlpools & Two Water Slides
- 100 + Electronic Video & Redemption Games
- 2-Story German-Themed Children’s Play Village
- Events for Red Hats groups, families, couples, Girl Scouts, wine lovers, and more
Read more about the restaurant's history, or book a reservation with us today.