Dorothy Zehnder, Bavarian Inn matriarch, honored as a 'Woman of Achievement'

Mar 16, 2017 Mark

Press Release ( - FRANKENMUTH, Mich. - Mar 16, 2017 - Dorothy Zehnder, founder and managing director of the family-owned Bavarian Inn Restaurant ( and the nearby Bavarian Inn Lodge (, received a 2017 Women of Achievement Award from the Great Lakes Bay YWCA at a special awards ceremony and dinner on March 15 at the Horizons Conference Center in Saginaw Township.

Zehnder was honored as an entrepreneur in recognition for her accomplishments as the driving force for one of Frankenmuth’s – and Michigan’s – most popular vacation destinations.

The purpose of the annual event, part of the YWCA’s mission of empowering women, is to honor leaders who have made outstanding contributions in business, community leadership, education, healthcare, entrepreneurship, or lifetime achievement.

Dorothy, who celebrated her 95th birthday last December, continues doing what she enjoys the most – working in the kitchen of one of the nation’s largest and most successful restaurants.

“I like working,” she says. “I like to cook, and I like people. What else is there that I would like better?”

Dorothy also helps oversee the family’s entire business operations, which, besides the restaurant and lodge, includes its “Curbside to Go” carry-out business, Castle Shops, Frankenmuth River Place Shops, Covered Bridge & Leather Gift Shop, Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, a specialty line of food products, and online merchandising.

She’s also the author of two cookbooks, “Come Cook with Me,” published in 2011, and the follow-up “From My Kitchen to Yours,” published in 2014.

Dorothy, who was born in nearby Reese, Michigan, founded the restaurant with her late husband, William “Tiny” Zehnder, having purchased the former Fischer’s Hotel in 1950. At that time, Dorothy, Tiny and their 12 employees served about 50 people a day. Today the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has 400 employees, serves thousands of people a day in 12 dining rooms and annually ranks among the country’s largest family-run restaurants.

Today Dorothy’s main mission is to oversee quality control in the kitchen – including making sure the mashed potatoes are whipped to perfection, and that the entrees, like the Bavarian Inn’s famous Frankenmuth Chicken®, meet her high standards before heading to the dining room.

About Bavarian Inn

Celebrating 125 years of service in 2013, the Bavarian Inn Restaurant has become a Michigan landmark. Generations of diners, lodgers and tourists from around the globe have discovered true Bavarian hospitality thanks to Dorothy and her late husband William “Tiny” Zehnder. Guests experience the old-world European charm of the Bavarian Inn – whether it’s the famous chicken dinners, fresh baked goods or Michigan’s greatest selection of German beer. Bavarian Inn also prides itself on being one of the top consumers of Pure Michigan agricultural products. Nestled within a backdrop of authentic German architecture, a variety of shops and other fun activities, a trip to Frankenmuth would not be complete without a visit to the Bavarian Inn. Learn more at

Bavarian Inn online press room:

Bavarian Inn Lodge

Nestled along the Cass River in one of Michigan’s top tourist destinations – Frankenmuth – is one of the state’s largest Indoor Water Park Hotels! The Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, an adult-only pool and whirlpool, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants – all under one roof. The expansive 35,000 square feet Family Fun Center houses two dramatic waterslides, three pools and two whirlpools, over 150 video and redemption games, a two-story children’s play village and Willy’s Kingdom indoor mini-golf course. Guests can also enjoy live, year-round, nightly entertainment and test their own musical skills during weekend family karaoke shows. In 30 years of business, the Bavarian Inn Lodge has been an important destination for travelers, evidenced by the 1.25 million room-nights that have been booked there since its opening, along with its top rating on TripAdvisor®. Learn more at

Bavarian Inn Lodge online press room:

YWCA Great Lakes Bay Region focuses on the economic advancement of women in the Great Lakes Bay Region, encompassing Bay, Saginaw, Midland, and Isabella Counties.  Located in Bay City, Michigan, its community education program offers education and professional development opportunities to the public. The organization also operates the YWCA Women’s Resource Center which includes a full technology center and provides education, resume development, job searches, computer literacy skills, legal assistance referrals, financial literacy and other support services to assist women in becoming economically self-sufficient. Learn more at .

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