Laughner's Cafeterias roots trace to 1888 with the opening of Laughner & Perry Confectionary. It was a joint between William Jonathon Wesley Laughner (Jonathon) and William J. Perry. Laughner later bought out his partner in 1892, and in 1900 open Laughner's Dairy Lunch, also in Indianapolis. Jonathon's brothers, George A., Ora and Elmer, all entered the business. Jonathon and his son Claude opened a restaurant together, and Claude's five children later joined the business. Claude introduced the cafeteria-style restaurant concept in 1920. His sons, Charles, Lloyd, and Richard, formed Laughner Brothers. A cousin was involved in the founding of rival MCL Cafeterias.
Laughner Brothers attempted to enter the fast food business with two different drive-ins, one of which was called Laughner's Steer-In, but they were not successful. Besides the Laughner's Cafeterias, they opened the Dutch Oven in 1971, a pie shop and cafe, Jonathon's Restaurant and Pub, a full-service restaurant, in 1978, The Oven and Classic U.S. Foods.
Cafeteria-style restaurants began to decline in popularity in the 1980s, and Laughner's was hit by this decline. They began closing the out-lying restaurants and gradually retreated to Indianapolis. The last cafeteria closed its doors in 2000. Over its 112-year history, four-decades of the Laughner family served in the company.
Charles "Chip" Laughner, Jr, the last CEO of Laughner's, converted one of the newer Laughner's Cafeterias to a new concept, Loon Lake Lodge, in 1998. Located in Castleton, Indiana in a high-traffic area, the lodge-themed restaurant serves traditional American fare with twists. Rattlesnake and pheasant are on the menu, as well as elk and venison. This venture was spun off as a separate family-owned company, Laughner Investments, headed by Chip.
In the Summer of 2010 the Laughner Family closed the Loon Lake Lodge, wilderness-themed restaurant, ended a 122 year run in the restaurant business for the Laughner's in Indiana. The Laughner's cited declining sales and health problems as the reason to close Loon Lake Lodge and exit the restaurant business.
- Elkhart, Indiana
- Indianapolis - ten locations
- Kokomo, Indiana
- Plainfield, Indiana
- Terre Haute, Indiana
- "Laughner Brothers" (PDF). Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
- 405 F.2d 1401
- Indianapolis Cafeteria Shutters Its Only Remaining City Eatery.(Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News) | Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News | Find Articles at BNET
- Laughner's to get new CEO, chair | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles at BNET
- Nature calls: Laughners open new Loon Lake Lodge concept | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles at BNET Archived 2005-04-26 on Wayback Machine.