Some people don’t like to eat the same food for dinner twice in a week.
Ron and Diana Watson don’t have those concerns.
When the couple walks into the Texas Roadhouse in Wichita each day between 3 and 5 p.m., the servers immediately notify the kitchen to start their dinners. With rare exception, the Watsons have ordered the same meal six days a week, for 15 years.
He gets barbecue chicken, and she opts for the “Road Kill” steak.
The couple enjoys the Texas Roadhouse so much, in fact, they have trained themselves to eat almost nothing else, day or night, except this meal. Not even morning coffee. Ron Watson will drink water with lemon through the day, while Diana Watson will drink a protein shake for breakfast.
Apart from that, the food they eat while sitting at table number 411 or 412 sustains them until it’s time to return the next day, always at the same time, for the early bird special. It’s been this way since 2004.
“I am a creature of habit, for sure,” said Ron Watson, 69.
It does not get old for the Watsons because they believe in the comfort of sameness. There is also a practicality, they explain, to knowing exactly what, where and when they’ll eat each day. There are no decisions to be made, no brain space wasted on making food choices.
“We really enjoy eating there, and I enjoy my wife not having to cook,” said Ron Watson, adding that she used to do all of the cooking, though she found it tiresome and inefficient.
They have simplified their lives with such precision that they no longer have the mundane life tasks of grocery store trips, washing dishes and meal planning.
“By the time you start your car, go to the grocery store, go through all this hassle, go home, cook and do the dishes . . . you’re taking an hour or hour and a half, minimum,” Ron Watson said. “We could go to the Texas Roadhouse to eat, and they know exactly where I want to sit.”
The Watsons skip the Texas Roadhouse only on Saturdays because Diana Watson works late at the Old Town Architectural Salvage antique store. By the time she finishes work on Saturdays, the restaurant is too crowded. So the Watsons head over to Hog Wild Pit BBQ, where Diana Watson likes the macaroni and cheese.
Ron Watson, a Marine and Vietnam War veteran who is disabled with PTSD, recalls skipping a day here and there because someone is sick or there is an emergency. Once, in 2014, he suffered a heart attack at the Texas Roadhouse while eating his dinner. He took two days off while in the hospital.
His wife picked up food from the Texas Roadhouse on those days and sneaked it into his hospital room.
The Watsons, who will celebrate 20 years together in October, have two sons — Jesse, 32, and Clint, 27 — and both get a kick out of their parents’ dining ritual. Jesse is Ron Watson’s son from a previous relationship, and Clint is Diana Watson’s son from before she married Ron Watson.
The couple’s Wichita home has bare cupboards and a mostly empty refrigerator — except for the protein shakes that their younger son, a student at Wichita State University, stores there. Clint Watson, who lives with his parents, mostly subsists on his protein shakes and, like his parents, eats out — though only occasionally at the Texas Roadhouse. The couple also has two granddaughters, Hazel, 5, and Ella, 3.
Ron and Diana Watson generally eschew fruits and other snacks. Ron Watson has trained his body to crave food just at dinner time, though he admits to the occasional hankering for ice cream.
“It took a few weeks to get used to it,” he said.
Diana Watson, 57, calls herself a picky eater — no butter or seasoning on her meal.
“I don’t really get bored at all,” said the country music fan who likes the music and dancing at the Texas Roadhouse. “I know that whatever it’s going to be, it’s going to be good.”
The Watsons spend about $22 a day on their two meals, including tip. The 10 percent veteran’s discount cuts the dining costs, which add up to about $540 a month for the couple.
This is their order: Diana Watson eats the “Road Kill” — a cheese-topped chop steak without the mushrooms and onions and cheese — along with a house salad with ranch dressing and no tomatoes, a baked potato with only double sour cream (hold the butter, salt and bacon bits), and a beer. Every once in a while, she orders salmon instead.
Ron Watson’s meal is barbecued chicken breast, mashed potatoes with gravy, salad with Italian dressing, and a sweet potato with only butter. He occasionally opts for pork chops instead. The Watsons both drink water with lemon.
They also have been cashing in on a Christmas special: Customers who bought a $200 Texas Roadhouse gift card were promised five free shrimp on each visit for a year. So starting in January, they added shrimp to their meal, which they cut in half and share. Ron Watson has worked out the numbers and expects to split 1,560 shrimp with his wife in 2019.
They are often asked if they ever get a craving for something different, like pizza or Chinese food. Their answer? Not really.
The only time the Watsons cook is on Christmas Day, and that’s because most restaurants are closed. On Christmas, they make a full meal of turkey, ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, and macaroni and cheese. Even before their Texas Roadhouse ritual started, the Watsons ate out most of the time, at places including other steakhouses, Italian restaurants and fast-food joints.
The couple has gained a bit of Internet fame for their ritual since they were recently profiled in the Wichita Eagle.
“We’ve got a lot of regulars but nobody is as frequent as them,” said Xavier Mendoza, one of the restaurant’s managers.
Mendoza said it makes perfect sense to him that they eat there six days a week.
“I know it’s more of a convenience thing for them,” Mendoza said. “If you’re going to eat out every day, you might as well go to a place where everyone knows you. After a while, the servers know what you’re going to order. . . . It’s a lot easier to build consistency there, and you know the food is going to be cooked right, just the way you want it.”
Ron Watson said the routine of his eating habits also helps him cope with PTSD. Sitting at the same tables gives him a view of who is coming and going out the doors, and helps ease his fear about who is approaching, he said.
The Watsons know some people may call their ritual boring. They feel no need to broaden their eating habits.
“We’re just pretty happy with what we get,” Ron Watson said. “I love it.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Diana Watson’s order. She takes her steak plain with no cheese. It also incorrectly stated her son Clint is adopted. He is not.