Bavarian Inn Restaurant History

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The Bavarian Inn Restaurant was founded as the Union House Hotel in 1888 by Theodore Fischer and renamed “Fischer’s Hotel.” His family continued the business for the next two generations. It was Theodore’s son, Herman and wife, Lydia, who are credited with first promoting “Frankenmuth all-you-can-eat family style chicken dinners.” The couple passed their popular Fischer’s Hotel to their son, Elmer, in 1941.

The William & Emilie (Bickel) Zehnder, Sr. Family has been operating Zehnder’s Restaurant since 1928. Son, William Jr, whom everyone called “Tiny”, worked as a farmer. He would stop at Fischer’s to pick up garbage to feed the hogs on his farm. He inquired about the possibility of the Zehnder family purchasing Fischer’s. After a terribly snowy Thanksgiving Day left Elmer Fischer stuck with an oversupply of food and frustration, Elmer was ready to talk. To compound the problem, Zehnder’s had just completed an addition and it was impossible to overlook the long lines of guests who eagerly waited outside to be served there. Elmer had two alternatives-sell or expand. The sale to the Zehnder family was finalized February 4, 1950.

Tiny left farming, and he and his young wife, Dorothy (a former waitress at Fischer’s) became the managers of the new business. Almost immediately they modernized the kitchen, installed dishwashing equipment, built a laundry, and improved the building design. Despite all the improvements, the Zehnder family’s recipe for success went flat. The restaurant lost money in 1956 & 1957. With the country in the midst of a recession, there was talk about closing the restaurant.

After many debates, the family made a courageous decision-to expand Fischer’s, not close it. The expansion gave the restaurant a new viable focus, one that instilled ethnic pride. The new addition boasted an authentic Bavarian exterior-stucco walls, woodcarving, flower boxes and other German accents were blended with the new German entrees served by “Bavarian” costumed servers. A weeklong celebration with German entertainment was held in 1959 which today is known as the Frankenmuth Bavarian Festival.

Almost non-stop remodeling and expansion occurred transforming the interior and exterior of the building to the Bavarian theme. In 1967 the stunning 50-foot Glockenspiel was added, topped off with a 35-bell carillon. It became an instant Bavarian Inn landmark with its revolving figures that depict the legend of the Pied Piper of Hameln.

Many Frankenmuth community leaders and residents considered Tiny Zehnder the driving force behind the transformation of their rural agricultural community into “Michigan’s Little Bavaria”. He spent nearly 50 years of his life assisting and encouraging other Frankenmuth businesses to either build or remodel their buildings in the Bavarian style. Due to poor health, Tiny resigned from active management of the Bavarian Inn Restaurant in 2004. He remained Chairman of the Board of Bavarian Inn, Inc. until his death May 23, 2006.

 

Dorothy Zehnder has been in this building since 1937, when she worked as a waitress at Fischers.  She continues to work 6 days a week at 95+ years of age. Since purchasing the restaurant in 1950, she has routinely worked alongside family and team members. Her motto is “if you don’t feel well, go to work and pretty soon you’ll feel better”. She has personally developed many of the recipes used in the restaurant and has taught thousands of employees the correct method to prepare all of the food that is served in the 12 dining rooms that seat 1200 guests.

3 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 one other child involved in the family business – Martha Zehnder Kaczynski who is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at the Bavarian Inn Lodge.

With Bavarian Inn Perks Club, you spend a little now for big rewards later.  Including a FREE chicken dinner for your birthday.

Mystery Kid's Package - $20.00

Each mystery bag has an assortment of activities, toys, and other fun goodies. Items are suitable for ages 4 - 10 years old.

   

 

Birthday Packages

Here are some packages that can help you celebrate your birthday at the Bavarian Inn Lodge!

(Added onto your room reservation. Payment taken at the time package is added. Birthday packages require 24hrs advanced notice)

Birthday Surprise Package – $39.99 (plus tax) This package includes:

● A Personalized Birthday Poster on Room Door
● A handwritten note to the Birthday boy/girl
● One Happy Birthday Balloon and Candy Assortment
● $10 reloadable Gaming Card
● One Mini-Golf Pass
● Small Mini-Melt

 

Willy's Birthday Package – $69.99 (plus tax) This package includes:

  • One Willy the Dragon Plush
  • A Personalized Birthday Poster on Room Door
  • A handwritten note to the Birthday boy/girl
  • One Happy Birthday Balloon and Candy Assortment
  • TWO $10 reloadable Gaming Card
  • One Mini-Golf Pass
  • One Small Mini-Melt from the Ratskeller

 

 

 

 

 

Family Fun Package – $55

  • One Large Pizza with up to 5 toppings from the Ratskeller
  • One Pitcher of Pop or Lemonade
  • 1lb. of Greta’s Homemade Fudge
  • 4 rounds of mini-golf
  • Two $5 gaming cards for the Family Fun Center

 

Deluxe Family Fun Package – $75

  • One Large Pizza with up to 5 toppings from the Ratskeller
  • One Pitcher of Pop or Lemonade
  • 1lb. of Greta’s Homemade Fudge
  • Two small mini-melt treats
  • Four 2-Day Unlimited Mini-Golf passes
  • Four $5 gaming cards for the Family Fun Center

Payment is taken at time package is added

  

 

Lodge 35th Anniversary Growler Package – $25.00

(added to your room reservation)

  • One *Special Edition* 35th Anniversary Growler with a fill
  • $10 Game Card to the Family Fun Center Arcade

 

 

Deluxe Spa Package – $50.00

(added to your room reservation)

  • Plush Bath Robe
  • Loofah Back Brush
  • Sleep Mask
  • Bath Sponge
  • Hair Towel
 
 
 

 

Premium Spa Package – $75.00

(added to your room reservation)

 

  • Plush Bath Robe
  • Bath Set
    • 2 bath fizzy bombs
    • Sleep Mask
    • Shower Gel
    • Body Lotion
  • Hair Towel
  • Mini-Manicure Set

 

 
 
 

Champagne Package – $35.00

(added to your room reservation)

  • One bottle of Champagne (non-alcoholic may be substituted)
  • Two keepsake glasses

 

 
 
 

Wine Package – $35.00

(added to your room reservation)

  • One bottle of wine.  Select from:
    – Riesling (white, slightly less sweet than Moscato)
    – Merlot (red dry, slightly sweet
    – Cranberry ( red, slightly acidic flavor, delicate sweetness)
  • Two keepsake glasses

Payment taken at time package is added

Payment taken at the time package is added

 

Romantic Package – $160.00 (added to your room reservation)

  • Romantic dinner for two ($40.00 value) at Oma’s Restaurant at Bavarian Inn Lodge
  • $20.00 Oma’s Breakfast Voucher
  • Champagne with two keepsake glasses
  • Choice of either: 15-minute horse-drawn carriage ride or Bavarian Belle riverboat ride
          • Box of Bavarian Inn Chocolates (5 oz.)

 

Anniversary Package – $99.00 (added to your room reservation)

  • Romantic dinner for two ($40.00 value) at Oma’s Restaurant inside the  Bavarian Inn Lodge
  • $20 Oma’s breakfast voucher
  • Champagne with two keepsake glasses

 

Sweetheart Package – $89.00 (added to your room reservation)

  • Romantic dinner for two ($40.00 value) at Oma’s Restaurant at Bavarian Inn Lodge
  • $20.00 Oma’s Breakfast Voucher
  • Box of  Bavarian Inn Chocolates (5 oz.)
  • Frankenmuth Keepsake

Game Mayhem Package – $250.00

  • 1,000 Gaming Credits (10 Gaming Cards with 100 credits each)
  • Five $10 Vouchers – For use in Martha’s Gift Shop, Oma’s Restaurant and Lorelei Lounge

Payment taken at the time package is added to your reservation

With Bavarian Inn Perks Club you can spend a little now for big rewards later.  Including a FREE chicken dinner for your birthday.

BAVARIAN INN LODGE

One Covered Bridge Lane
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Lodge: 1-855-652-7200

EMAIL: [email protected]

BAVARIAN INN Restaurant

713 S. Main Street
Frankenmuth, MI 48734
Restaurant: 1-800-228-2742

EMAIL: [email protected]

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