Waiters, cooks and other employees who had been picketing the Sans Souci restaurant since April 28 were all back in their white jackets and working by Monday. But patrons of the famous eating place near the White House still have to cross a line of union pickets to get inside.

The employees returned to work at the urging of one of its owners because "they (the employees) were hurting for money," according to union spokesman. "We were paying them $75 a week in strike benefits and they decided they just couldn't afford to stay out on that. But we agreed to put our own pickets outside."

According to one waiter who had been picketing, the Sans Souci owner "told us there was not point in staying outside, that we might as well come back to work since that's what we would do eventually, with or without the union. We're on good terms now as far as I'm concerned."

The union spokesman, Ron Richardson, said the restaurant had been suffering financially, along with its picketing employees. "Based on our counts, they only served 90 lunches Monday. They normally serve about 120 and turn people away."

The waiter, who was back at work, said that on Tuesday, the number of lunches servied was up to 136, "a very good number," he said, perhaps because regular customers had gotten the word that their waiters were back.

Owner Bernard Gorland said, on the contrary, that business had not been materially affected by the picket line. "We only had one bad night, Friday, and that was because it was raining. They (the picketing employees) suffered more than I did that night. I at least made expenses."

He said the employees had decided to come back "when they saw they weren't hurting us financially. They have to make a living too."

Gorland said the dining room is back in "beautiful" working order again and that he feels no animosity toward employees who had walked the picket lines.

About half of the restaurant's 33 employees (by employee estimates) are seeking union representation in order to get health and retirement benefits, higher pay and better working conditions. They set up the picketline in reaction to what they described as attempts by their employer to intimidate or punish them for their union activity.

Calling the union's tactic "coercion," Gorland had pressed for a secret ballot election for employees, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The election had been set for today but the union and some restaurant employees blocked it with charges that Gorland's actions, such as attempted firings and threats of blacklisting, had made a fair election impossible.

The union - Hotel and Restaurant Employees' local 25 - wants the NLRB to support its charges of unfair labor practices and order Gorland to recognize the union as the employees' bargaining representative without an election, Richardson said.

Gorland says he is "not opposed to a union, if that is what our employees, really want . . . but we also do not want our employees to be forced to join a union unless they want to join it."

He said he expects to win the case before the NLRB.