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One-stop-dating-shop

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DATING agency Lunch Actually’s Violet Lim

IN AN AGE where online dating is de rigueur, the “paradox of choice” can create and ruin chances of having a romantic connection, thus there may be a need for more tailored and personal experiences like what Violet Lim and her company, Lunch Actually, offers.

Lunch Actually (lunchactually.com) is a dating company that started in Singapore in 2004 and matches people through lunch dates.

“Lunch dates were short, sweet, and simple — long enough to know someone, yet not too long that it would become awkward. And after all, no matter how busy work gets, everyone needs to have lunch, right?” Ms. Lim told BusinessWorld in an e-mail interview.

As a dating service, the company provides its members “personalized service, safety, privacy and it saves you time so you can focus on things that matter to you most.”

“No need to spend hours browsing online profiles, writing introductory messages and making efforts arranging a date when your match may or may not turn up,” she said.

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Sixteen years in the business and Lunch Actually is already in five markets — Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, and Thailand — and has arranged “over 120,000 first dates and 4,000 marriages” that they know of, as Ms. Lim pointed out that not all of their matches come back and tell them that they are getting married.

“Our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) which I have taken in to be my personal mission as well, is to create 1 million happy marriages through our work at Lunch Actually!” she said.

MAKINGS OF A MATCHMAKER
Before starting Lunch Actually, Ms. Lim confessed that it wasn’t her childhood dream to become a matchmaker.

“In fact, I was set to have the typical Asian ‘route of success’ of studying hard, going to an excellent university, and then getting a good job,” she said before adding that she read law at the University of Manchester and has a Masters degree in Personnel Management at the London School of Economics.

“I did a summer internship at a law firm, and I was handling a case between this divorced couple. I remember feeling really sad that they could not even manage to communicate [with] each other directly and they had to go through the lawyers to talk about a very simple thing like who’s going to pick up the kids from school. I soon realized that as much as I loved law, it was not my calling,” she said.

Ms. Lim then started working at Citibank as a management associate and was surprised that many of her “eligible and attractive colleagues were single.”

“I would have imagined that people who worked in banking would be extremely eligible and sought after, but yet, my colleagues weren’t even dating — they were all busy and virtually married to their jobs. At the same time, many of my friends who were about the same age as my colleagues were getting engaged, married, or even having kids. I discovered that most of them met actually their future partners at school, or at university. I met my husband Jamie at university as well,” she said.

“It seemed to me that after graduation, the chances of meeting a partner while building up your career were getting slimmer and slimmer, especially when you are working long hours,” Ms. Lim added.

After becoming jaded and disillusioned with her profession and not being able to see herself work the same job for 10 years, Ms. Lim decided to combine her passion for helping others “find their lifelong happiness” and creating a successful business.

Thus, Lunch Actually was born.

DATING OVER LUNCH
While not disregarding the benefits of online dating, as there are many couples who do find each other online, Ms. Lim said that what Lunch Actually offers is a service where members are screened and verified in person before being signed to the service and set up for dates.

“We also help in handpicking the most suitable match for each client so you don’t waste a lot of time and effort screening through unsuitable matches like you would in other online dating services,” she explained.

Lunch Actually, therefore, takes all the complexities out of looking for a date and getting a date without the fear of being catfished (where people pretend to be another person online to scam or trick another person).

“We had a lawyer that joined us, and if you know, lawyers are paid by the hour. Imagine the amount of hours he has been spending on dating apps, and how he could have saved himself not just money, but his time and energy — by working with professionals and experts who have access to the right matches and also able to guide him along the process,” Ms. Lim said.

Dating services, she added, also add to character building as dating consultants can help point out dating blindspots, give advice to “ace your date,” and build dating confidence.

The company handles everything — arranging the date, book the restaurant, etc. — once a match is made and both parties agree to meet. All the members need to do is turn up for the date.

All this for a price, of course.

In Singapore, being a member of Lunch Actually starts at S$2,500. They also have a high-end matchmaking service for C-suite professionals called Peerage, and a free online dating app called LunchClick.

People who sign up with a service such as theirs are people who want to use their time more effectively, Ms. Lim said.

“It’s not about not having the time to find dates themselves — but it’s more like making use of their time more effectively. Rather than spending time swiping or chatting on apps, or going on dates with people who are not compatible with you, they come to us and we will do all the filtering and verification and matching. All they have to do is show up on the date and get to know their match,” she explained. — Zsarlene B. Chua

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