The Smorgasphere™

The rotary Smorgasphere™ was intended to revolutionize the concept of smorgasbords. The Smorgasphere™ was intended to keep food fresh and hot with a rotating buffet. The Smorgasphere™ was intended to bring the future to the late 1960s. The Smorgasphere™ was the future.

In 1966, Donald Wulff, owner of Don’s Colonial House restaurant in Manteno, Illinois came up with an new concept in buffet dining. He spent months designing and building a pilot model for his his restaurant. The new idea was called The Smorgasphere.™

The pilot model of The Smorgasphere™ located in Don’s Colonial House, Manteno, Illinois

The idea behind the Smorgasphere™ was fairly simple. It was a buffet that was half in the kitchen and half in the dining area that could be rotated 180 degrees to keep food fresh and mess at a minimum. In 1967, after the success of the pilot model, Wulff patented and trademarked the Rotary Smorgasphere.™

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The slideshow above is the entire patent for Wulff invention. It’s fascinating to see the dimensions and the overall size of the the rotating beast.

Jacksonville Daily Journal – October 8, 1967

Shortly after filing for a patent, Wulff placed ads in regional newspapers attempting to franchise his revolutionary concept.

An investment of $25,000 was required to have a Smorgasphere™, presumably just to pay for the construction of the machine and designing a space that accommodate it. I have not found an evidence that any took Wulff up on his franchising opportunity.

The concept did catch the idea of the Rotary Club magazine called the Rotarian, as a brief mention the Smorgasphere™ appeared in the March, 1968 issue.

The Rotarian – March 1968

What happened after the Smorgasphere™ didn’t take off? Short answer is that I don’t know. I cannot find any mention of Don’s Colonial House or the Smorgasphere™ after 1968. I cannot even find an address for the restaurant. The address in the personal ad must have been a business office.


The only thing I was able to find was a postcard image of the Colonial House Smorgasphere™ sometime later. The entire thing has a different. Gone is the red and white coloring, the bubble top and sleek styling.

The one in the postcard shows the ubiquitous 1970s wood panelling, a scalloped top with lighting and completely covered dome. I cannot tell from the image if it evens rotates anymore.

If I can track down this card then maybe I can figure those questions out. Maybe it holds the key as to what happened to the revolving revolution in buffet dining.




One thought on “The Smorgasphere™

  1. I am Don Wulffs grandson and you have brought a piece of family history i never knew to my attention and for that i must truely thank you. while i dont have the answers to your questions i will find out. my mother and her 5 brothers and sisters worked the resturant as kids. my Grandpa owned multiple resturants in manteno and was in the busniess for 42 years.

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