Lunch Actually Review, Part 1: Joining Lunch Actually (Why I’m Joining a Dating Agency and My Lunch Actually Review Series)

This is part 1 of my review series with Lunch Actually, Asia’s premier lunch dating company.

Lunch Actually

Hello everyone! :D Today’s announcement is sort of like a random one (well, not quite…). I’ve been thinking of joining Lunch Actually, a premium matchmaking service that arranges 1-to-1 dates between compatible singles, and I’m intending to blog about my upcoming experience with them.

Interest in Lunch Actually

Some of you may remember Lunch Actually from the feature I did of it on Celes Show longgggg ago in Feb 2010. (If you want, you can watch the episode here on my Youtube channel, but note that it is extremely low quality as I lost the high res version. Speaking of videos, the web lectures are doing extremely well and I’m planning to make new ones soon! Thank you for all your love, subscribes, likes, and support! :D)

During my interview with the CEO (Violet Lim, who is also my friend) and from my conversations with her afterward, I developed a very positive impression of the agency and thought it sounded like a great service and a great avenue to meet compatible people. However, I held off doing anything about my interest back then as I was busy with other things then (namely PE), and dating and relationships were not exactly my priority at that time.

It’s been two years since then, and I think I’m now ready to give Lunch Actually a shot! Violet and Jamie, who are the co-founders of the company, are actually my friends as well (it all started off from PE, so I have PE to thank!), so I’ve no doubt that they’re running a great service there. I’m not really concerned about the value or quality about their service as much as I’m curious as to how the experience will unfold.

Negative Stereotypes Toward Arranged Dating

Because I think arranged dating, matchmaking, and a proactive pursuit to finding compatible people are things that are quite frowned upon in the Asian community, especially Singapore (and I believe Hong Kong), I decided to openly blog about my signing up to Lunch Actually and my upcoming experience with them (and arranged dating as a whole).

I had already intended to join Lunch Actually and openly blog about my experience since a few weeks ago, and I briefly mentioned to people here and there to get initial thoughts. The interesting, common response I got was, “Why would you want to write about something like this?”, stemming from the undercurrent belief that joining a dating service was taboo and seen as “uncool”.

The funny thing is, finding and meeting compatible people is something that many singles (I believe) think about and want to do, but no one dares to take the step to try it or talk about it. I think it’s totally silly and a result of self-limiting beliefs. This further reinforced my desire to write about my experience, because I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed or feel uncool about!

I could easily do this in a hush-hush manner and not talk about it anywhere, be it on the blog or to my friends, but I don’t have anything to hide and it’s not something that I’m embarrassed about. In fact, I think it’s probably going to be quite fun. I’m particularly excited about how it’s going to turn out and I think there is great value to share from my experience, so this is why I’ve decided to openly write about it.

My hope is that doing so will help to change the society and people’s stigmas and negative stereotypes about (arranged) dating and proactive approaches to finding love (cliche term, but I can’t find a better term to describe this). I hope all of you will find this upcoming series helpful.

My Intended Review for Lunch Actually

Prior to contacting Lunch Actually, I tried searching for “Lunch Actually reviews” on Google, but found nothing remotely helpful! Actually, I found nothing at all! -_-” I realized that not a lot of people write about their experiences with such services or bother to post their reviews publicly, even though I’m sure there are people who use them (again, perhaps due to stigmas and stereotypes).

Hence, by publicly writing and sharing my experience with Lunch Actually, I believe it will be immensely helpful to the people (read, singles) who might be considering joining the service. I know that I definitely would have appreciated having a transparent write-up and review to refer to prior to signing up.

My plan is to write about my experience with Lunch Actually in the key stages of the service, such as during the consultation stage, before/after the first date, before/after the second dates, and so on, culminating to my final review of the service (whenever I decide to stop it).

I will not be planning to write about anything to do with the people I meet (maintaining others’ privacy is important to me) or anything that’s considered proprietary information. Rather, I’ll focus on sharing the process and my experience with the process. I hope that you will respect others’ privacy by not asking me about details about them or the dates for that matter.

Don’t expect weekly or even daily posts about Lunch Actually, because it doesn’t work that way. They don’t send people on weekly dates — from what I understand, it ranges from about two to four weeks per date, to even a couple of months, depending on your criteria (of who you want to be matched with), availability of such candidates in their database, and whether you match their criteria. I’ll also not be going on “dates” right away until after about 4-6 weeks; it’s a standard process for all new members. (I’ll have to ask more about that later on.)

My guess is that they don’t want  to turn their service into a casual or speed dating service, which is something I respect. Personally I’m not a fan of those things; I’m more into serious, meaningful, and well-thought-out encounters.

By the way, none of this write-up or review is sponsored in any way. I’m paying for the service myself (or rather, I’m intending to pay for it, because I’ve not even signed up yet). I’ve already booked for a consultation with them later today (which is free for anyone) and will blog about how the session goes later tonight or tomorrow.

* Update, July 3: Lunch Actually has kindly offered to sponsor my membership, but rest assured that this post is entirely objective and so will my upcoming write-ups about my experience with them (as with all my other posts and reviews on PE)! My objective here is purely to share my experience with their service and provide a transparent recount of what dating with them entails.

Speaking of which, this post might be premature because I’ve not even signed up yet. (I’ll see how the consultation later goes, but for the most part I’ve pretty much decided I’ll be joining.) I’ve heard of the company rejecting people if if they are not confident of finding good quality matches for the candidates. I don’t know why they would want to reject me but you never know! I’ll keep you guys posted later. :D

Opening Myself Up

For the most part, I’m joining Lunch Actually as part of opening myself up to meeting new, compatible people. I’m not sure how their matching system works or how good it is, so it’ll be interesting to see it in action.

For the record, I’m not expecting to meet like THE ONE from it—it’ll be nice if that happens—but I’m mainly doing this for the experience, to open myself up, and to see what unfolds. At the very least, I think it’s a fun, exciting (albeit pricey) way to meet new (and hopefully similar-minded) people.

By the way, I don’t think anyone should join such services with expectations to meet THE ONE or meet someone special for him/her. I’ve found that approaching dating and love with expectations like that is unhealthy and only creates a negative experience for yourself and the other party. Read more: Your Guide to Love: 10 Steps to Attract Authentic Love into Your Life

Why Not Try Other Avenues of Meeting People?

Well, I’m trying Lunch Actually as a new avenue to meet people. I’ve never tried such a service before, so I think it’ll be fun to give it a shot. I think we should always be open to trying new things and new experiences.

I particularly like the fact that it’s not easily accessible, because it suggests that people who sign up for Lunch Actually are people who are considerably serious about meeting others. Plus I am personally looking for someone, so why not sign up for a service where there are other people who are also looking to meet someone too? The other thing I like about arranged dates is that the dating consultants will do the work and matching, and I just need to turn up on the day itself. I don’t mind paying for such a service if it’s good.

As for other avenues like online dating, I’m open to them! I still have to discuss with Violet on the kind of arrangement we are going for, so I’m putting them (online dating channels) on hold for now.

As for the organic way of meeting people (through friends’ friends, events, etc), I’m still doing all of that. Not to get dates and meet compatible matches, but simply because I naturally love meeting people, getting to know them, and fostering new connections. I’ve come to realize during my 7-month travel last year that I’m very people-centered and I love making new connections. Not really a surprise when I consider that my life purpose is all about helping other people to grow and live better lives.

Any Thoughts? Reviews of Your Own?

Feel free to share your comments if any. If you have had experiences with them or have friends who tried their services before, feel free to share them in the comments section as well. Your reviews will be more than welcome. Unconstructive, derogatory or flame-like comments will be deleted. (Not that I’m expecting any.) Thanks! :D

If you’re interested to know more about Lunch Actually, you can visit their website at They currently have branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. If you decide to sign up, let them know that Celes sent you their way!

This is part 1 of my review series with Lunch Actually, Asia’s premier lunch dating company.

  • Glenn

    Good luck Celes!

    With a one month term per introduction, they would definitely want to make sure they find someone compatible. But agreed, it’s a good idea. There are a lot of singles out there, and if they don’t have anywhere specific to go where they can meet like minded people, it may be hard for them to find someone. And even when people do meet somewhere, like in a bar or at a gym, in those cases their shared interests may only be alcohol or fitness. At least a dating service will cover a lot more.

    Oh, and do they have a vegan/vegetarian option? :)

    Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your male fans in Singapore decide to sign up at LA too, now they know you’re signing up. ;)

    • Celes

      Hey Glenn, thank you! :D That’s sweet of you.

      I’m not sure if they have a vegan/vegetarian option, though I’m sure they would be able to match based on that criteria. I’m personally open when it comes to dietary preferences though! I think the person is free to eat whatever he/she wants and I’m okay with if the person (guy) I’m with has other dietary preferences. (I think Lydia is not fully vegetarian, is she?)

      Lol, that will be funny if they do. :D Though I have to add now that LA has actually offered to sponsor my entire membership package after the owners knew I was coming and signing up (I didn’t notify them previously and we sort of just casually talked about this in the past). We will be working out a special arrangement where I’ll be sharing about my experience and their other dating services (they do have other dating services other than LA) so it’ll be quite exciting!! All my reviews and write-ups will still be objective and transparent as always though, so if anyone is concerned that the write-ups will now be glossed over, don’t be!

      • Glenn

        Hi Celes, sorry about the slow reply. Yes, just curious if there was a veg option :) And no, Lydia’s not vegetarian. But she eats vegetarian most of the time she’s with me. Although having someone with that same lifestyle choice would be really nice! It can feel lonely at times being the only vegan, which is normally 95% of the time for me. So even though it’s not that important to you, it would make life easier further down the track. Just having that common bond.

        It’s funny, when I became vegetarian it was when I was when out with a girl for a short time who was vegetarian. And eating out with her was great. All the food we ate we’d share. But things didn’t work out, I became vegan a bit over a year later, and last I checked she was eating I meat again.

        Great to hear they’re sponsoring you too! You’ll want to be honest with your date/s though, and let them know that you’ll be writing about your experience with LA. But I’ll be interested to see how much you’ll be able to write about your experience without revealing too much about your date/s.

        • Celes

          Hey Glenn! :D That’s good that things worked out well with you and Lydia (in terms of dietary arrangement). I found that the dietary preference hasn’t been important in terms of connection with someone else. (Just like how things worked out well with you and Lydia!) It’s definitely great when there’s a commonality in the dietary preferences, but the guys whom I shared romantic interests with in the past weren’t vegetarian or vegan.

          Anyway, regarding honesty with dates, the agency with be informing them on their end before setting up the dates to check if they are okay with it. But in all honesty I wouldn’t think there would be an issue only because I’m not really going to write about them or the dates (like you rightly pointed out, it’d be tough to do so). I’m focusing on just sharing on the arranged dating/match making process for their service so those who are interested to sign up can get an insider’s view on how it’s done. I think it’ll also be pretty awkward if they were to check my site later (after we get to know each other) and read about themselves on the site (whether it’s positive or negative), so I think best is just not to write about the dates at all (except perhaps touching on them briefly).

  • Elena

    I really relate to your experiment :) A couple years ago I decided to join the free dating site okcupid just to see what would happen and I ended up meeting a lot of great people through it. I didn’t find that because it was free it reduced the quality of the people who I spoke to at all. They were mostly highly educated phd students, respectable professionals and really lovely people that formed my highest “matches”. I’d highly recommend it for anyone looking to meet new people from the opposite gender with an opportunity for it to blossom into something more.

    Regarding your experiences-to-come – I would love to read a post by you about why you want to date / why you want to find someone romantically (you say you like meeting new people – but a romantic relationship is something else entirely). I always think that ultimately for me it’s based on a misguided need to feel love / loved – whereas if you feel love within you already (for yourself and for others eg friends / family who you are affectionate with) – why do you need someone else to be in a romantic relationship with them? I’d be really interested to hear your take on it :)

    • Elena

      *I forgot another reason people often give to date: “because I’m supposed to / it’s what people do” or “because my parents want grandchildren one day!”. In other words, to meet society’s expectations and norms.

    • Celes

      Hey Elena! I did write about this in some detail in the article on finding love. It’s not 100% about why someone or I should want to date / find love, but there’s good coverage on the topic and what constitutes a healthy desire vs. non-healthy desire to be in a relationship. I don’t think that wanting to be in a romantic relationship has to do with lack of self-love, though I definitely agree with you there ARE people who want to be in a romantic relationship because they lack self-love (obviously this would be a fear-based desire and is not good at all as I covered in the finding love article). In the article, I also differentiated between fear-based desires and what constitutes a healthy desire.

      At the end of the day I do see finding love and openness to being in a romantic relationship as a natural part of being human and forming bonds: I don’t think it’s negative, bad, unnatural, or out of place to want to be in a romantic relationship – it has its distinctive place in a person’s life. It’s like saying that if you have friends and a partner, why would you need a father or a mother? Or if you have father, mother, and a partner, why would you need friends? Or if you have a father and friends, why would you need a mother? Or if you have a partner, friends, and parents, why would you need to have a kid? It’s sort of a natural evolution of human growth and the human psyche. The relationships aren’t really comparable (apple-to-apple) in the end because each relationship brings a unique thing to the table and there is a place for each of them in our lives.

      • Elena

        Hi Celes! Thank you for the reply and for pointing me in the direction of your finding love article (which I just read now and enjoyed very much) :) You make interesting points. I’m pretty clear on what unique things friendships offer to the table that parent-child relationships don’t (eg common interests which you may not share with family members, doing things together that are appropriate for your age); and on what mothers offer that fathers dont (eg maternal warmth, womanly sensitivity, role model for femininity), and on what fathers offer that mothers dont (eg masculine perspective, role model for masculinity), but I still feel a bit fuzzy on what a partner can offer that other close and loving relationships dont (apart from the physical stuff of course! :D). Sorry to go on about this – it’s just something that’s been confounding me for a while.

        • Celes

          Hey Elena! :D No problem at all! I actually really love your question, and I’ve to be honest with you that I don’t have a precise answer for that.

          Theoretically, it is true that whatever a romantic partner can provide (other than the physical aspects, but even then there’s always the notion of having friends with benefits) can be provided by a selection of very very close friends, but I definitely believe there’s more than meets the eye on this. I have never been in any serious relationships to make a definite comment on this, but I know in the times when I had romantic encounters with others, it opened up a different aspect of myself which was never accessed previously. It’s a definite connection that’s deeper and different than even a very close friendship I suspect. (Of course there are partners who never connect emotionally, but we’re talking about the ideal cases here.) I also think that if there is a thought or a desire to seek out a romantic partner, then the person should most definitely go for it vs. holding back! Everything else will unfold from there.

          Also, another thing I think is important to consider here, is that rather than thinking about in terms of “Why is there a need for…?”, why not look at it as a “Why not?” situation? The former sort of assumes that there is no place for a romantic relationship in one’s life, whereas the latter approach embraces possibilities. To be very honest, I think it’s arguable that one doesn’t need a mother, father, or friends to have a functional life actually, in that a person can always learn to be self-sufficient in his/her own way (e.g., learn to give maternal care to him/herself, learn to give paternal care, learn to be sociable to him/herself), so if we are to really strip things down into the empirical, then no one needs any other person in his/her life. (Such an approach will of course, lead to a very enclosed personality.) But I think the exciting thing about life is embracing possibilities and fostering all kinds of connections that are out there, and from there we begin to expose ourselves to things about us and others we never knew were there. :)

          I’m not sure if my response has helped in any way, but thanks a lot for your question though! It’s something which I’ve personally explored in the past and the above is what I’ve come to conclude. (In short, rather than thinking in terms of “Why?”, I now look at it as a “Why not?”. I definitely see having a romantic partner as a natural part of being human and being alive, also given that fundamentally humans and living beings naturally seek out partner/mates in life, be it for reproduction/survival of the species and the way the male/female genders are naturally different and hence complementary to each other.)

          • Elena

            I really like your “why not” idea. Sometimes when we turn it around like that it can clear things up a lot.

            Thank you so much for taking the time to reply Celes! I found your response very helpful :) Big hugs!

  • marissa

    this is such a great post and thing to do. i am a 30-something girl, and i realized, especially here in asia (in the philippines), this is frowned upon. but i think it is a good way to meet people, especially now that i am moving to a new place. any suggestions on how i can start this or take part in it, even if i am halfway around the world? thanks! and i love your page!

    • Celes

      Hey marissa! :) How about online dating – have you tried that? I personally don’t like it because it’s “too accessible” to everyone so everyone including non-serious people join, i.e. there’s a lot of *weeding through the haystack*, so to speak. Of course, there’s the anonymity issue for myself due to the kind of work I do (I have a somewhat more public profile than a typical person would). But I think if you go for more premium, restrictive type of online dating sites, you might have a better experience there due to the “higher quality” candidates, so to speak!

  • Andrew W.

    Hey, Celes! I wish you the best of outcomes in your endeavor! I think your decision to blog about the process and your experience is great! You’ve long been an inspiration to many people, and your willingness to positively confront skepticism, obstacles, and cultural inhibitions is powerful.

    I agree with you and Glenn. With a one-per-month cap on arranged lunches, they’re definitely looking to avoid the speed dating impression and focus on quality.


    • Celes

      Thanks for your kind and supportive words Andrew! It’s very nice of you and I appreciate it. :D

  • Chris

    Best wishes on this journey. :clap: Good for you for stepping out and trying another avenue. I have a friend, about same age, educated. For our cultural background (similar to Asians), she expressed introductions from our particular cultural background (we actually do have a criteria that has survived generations here). I can help by introducing her to eligible men via their families. Since she has relocated to a large urban area, I can make that introduction — so I can making an effort for my community.

    • Celes

      Hey Chris, that’s very nice of you to introduce her to eligible men in families. Most people don’t do that because their social circles are limited to begin with (i.e. they don’t know anyone eligible for others) or they are afraid to bear the brunt of responsibility with regards to the outcome of the matching (e.g., if it’s bad, and so on). But personally I love to try to match others up *if* I see some potential and one of them has expressed interest in finding someone else.

  • Nigel Chua

    Hi Celes

    I do agree that Lunch Actually and similar services are great to help people to “filter quickly” what are values and qualities that one is looking for in a partner, instead of going through the super-random-approach.

    I think that LAs are an evolved version of arranged marriages, with an elements of short testing grounds aka 1 hour dates to get a feel if one should pursue further or not (as opposed to the arranged marriages where there is little talk between the marrying partners where parents do all the arrangement VERSUS the other extreme end of love marriages where people randomly look for love…in all the wrong places).

    Should be fun and exciting! Enjoy yourself, be open, and see what happens! =D

    • Celes

      Thanks for the positive words, Nigel! :D For me, I’m really just going into this with an open mind and seeing how the experience is. Like you said, it should be fun! And I definitely think it’s quite exciting since it’s an all-new experience for me. Will update my experience accordingly on the blog. :D

  • Beauty Box

    Sorry to be late to the party – your latest post about handling criticism led me to this post. I just wanted to say that this is a brilliant idea and you could inspire others to take the plunge with dating services. I have several single friends who struggle with meeting a suitable partner and it’s not because they are unattractive or lack social skills.

    I think modern/urban life with a busy job tends to lead to a limited social life (not necessarily lacking in number of friendships) where you do not meet new people often enough to even have the opportunity to date available men or women, let alone partner up, and get into a serious relationship. So arranged dating could actually bridge the gap…though it holds such social stigma. Even couples who have met that way refuse to admit how they met on their wedding day (!!!)…

    On another note, I’ve actually interviewed Violet from LA in my past life as a magazine journalist and even till this day, her work and personality have left an excellent impression on me and I’m not surprised her business is still around. She’s very passionate about what she does and her idea of a discreet high end dating service would help weed out casual daters. Good luck and I look forward to reading about your experience with LA :)

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