FRANKENMUTH (WJRT) (2/5/2018) - Downtown Frankenmuth's iconic Bavarian Inn Restaurant is kicking off a celebration of its 130th anniversary this month, which will last through the year.
Events and special menus will be announced through the year.
The Bavarian Inn started in 1888 as the Union House Hotel, founded by German immigrant Theodore Fischer and renamed Fischer’s Hotel. His family continued the business for the next two generations.
His son, Herman and wife, Lydia, 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.
Meanwhile, the Zehnder family began operating Zehnder's Family Restaurant across the street in 1928. One of their sons visited the Bavarian Inn often to pick up food scraps to feed his hogs.
Eventually, that led to talks between the Zehnder and Fischer families about joining forces. The Zehnder family finalized the purchase of the Bavarian Inn on Feb. 9, 1950.
Tiny Zehnder left his hog farm and took over management of the Bavarian Inn with his wife, Dorothy, who was a former waitress there for the Fischer family.
The Zehnders immediately expanded and modernized the restaurant, giving it a more distinct German appearance. They added the landmark 50-foot Glockenspiel with a 35-bell carillon in 1967.
Today, the Bavarian Inn has 12 separate dining rooms with seating for 1,200 guests. Dorothy Zehnder is still a daily fixture in the kitchen well into her 90s.
Three generations of Zehnders are involved with running the restaurant.