Giving Thanks for a Meal Out–and the Tips

By: H. Lee Murphy

More restaurants will be serving Thanksgiving dinners this year, both to fill demand from patrons and to bring in much-needed revenue.

Dennis Gadeikis, a Web designer who co-owns Sarma Creative LLC in Chicago, has reserved a quiet table for five family members at the Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant in Orland Park, where three courses and a flight of four wines are $43. “This is the first time we’ve eaten out like this on Thanksgiving, and I was surprised by the number of restaurants that planned to be open,” says Mr. Gadeikis, 28. “At first I figured we’d have to choose between a Chinese chop suey joint or a hotel buffet.”

Restaurant workers accustomed to the day off are less thrilled.

Among those opening for their first Thanksgiving service is Restaurant Michael in Winnetka.

“I’m paying rent 24/7. The bad economy dictates that we be open as often as possible at this point,” says owner Michael Lachowicz, who expects to draw 100 reservations at $45 per guest. But that wasn’t enough to entice his three top waiters to work; he ended up recruiting replacements from a pool of catering servers. “My waiters have families. I understand that,” the chef says.

Brad Witvoet, 33, tends bar at Bin 36 in Chicago, which expects 450 Thanksgiving guests. He’s a divorced father of a 3-year-old daughter, but he figures to see her on Christmas. He expects to earn more than $200 in tips on Thursday.

“Moneywise, this is like working another Friday or Saturday night,” he says. “That’s nice extra income.”

From this week’s Business of Life