CHAMPAIGN — No offense to the traditional turkey dinner, but for Sahil Contractor, Thanksgiving is all about how many chicken wings he can give away.
For a fourth year in a row, Contractor will be opening his two Wingstop restaurants in Champaign and Springfield to serve free meals to anybody who walks in the doors.
The Wingstop at 512 S. Neil St., C will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday for free food, served by an all-volunteer crew that will include Contractor, his employees and others.
“Without our employees, this wouldn’t be possible at all,” he said. “I’m very blessed with them, especially.”When Contractor says the free food is for anybody, he means folks from all walks of life.
“It doesn’t matter what your financial status is,” he said. “Anybody is welcome to eat.”
On the “Wingsgiving” menu will be box dinners — each one containing five boneless wings, fries, a fresh-baked roll, a dip and bottled water.
At the first Wingsiving in 2016, there were 600 to 700 free meals served. This year, Contractor said he hopes to feed more than 1,200 people and keep this event growing every year.
Contractor, who grew up in Arlington Heights and now lives in Champaign, bought his Champaign Wingstop franchise in 2015 and his second in Springfield two years later.
Also a hip hop recording artist, he puts in a lot of time on the road.
His parents will be making the trip from the Chicago area to Champaign to help him serve the free meals, then head back for a later family Thanksgiving meal at home. Contractor said he’ll be driving north later to join them.
This event goes beyond community service for Contractor, who handles the cost of the free food out of pocket.
It’s also his way of showing his appreciation for being in business in a community where people have many restaurant choices, he said.
“I don’t take anyone for granted,” he said.
Contractor said he’s also hoping to inspire fellow business owners to do some Wingsgiving-style giving back of their own.
“The looks you see on people’s faces is the most priceless thing,” he said. “That’s what’s going to
keep this thing going.”