This is part 2 of my review series with Lunch Actually, a lunch dating company in Asia, after trying out their service in 2012. If you haven’t, check out part 1: Joining Lunch Actually before reading this post.
Hello everyone! 😀 As promised, here is the next part of my Lunch Actually experience! Today’s post documents my experience during the consultation and enrollment stages. Enjoy! 😉
As you’ve learned from part 1, I originally wanted to join LA as a paying member but LA offered to sponsor my 5-date package instead. Just because my membership is sponsored doesn’t mean that the reviews will be any different though; I’ll continue to write about my experiences objectively, as I do for all my articles.
Stage 1: Initial Consultation (Before Signing Up)
So after publishing my original post on Monday, I went down to their office for a consultation the next day (Tuesday). I arranged for a 5pm appointment since I had a dinner appointment with my friends at 6:45pm at a different location. I gathered one hour would be enough.
Upon reaching their office (which is at Park Mall; near Dhoby Ghaut MRT for those of you in Singapore), I was ushered into one of their meeting rooms. I was soon joined by their consultant, Irene. Turns out that Irene has been with LA since their inception in 2004! That means she has been matching singles for over 8 years!
Step 1: Understanding the Kind of Guy I’m Looking For
After exchanging formalities, Irene jumped right into querying me about my background, my past relationship history, and what I’m looking for in a relationship partner. She was pretty detailed in the questioning, asking me questions like my expectations in terms of the person’s height, physical size, looks, education qualifications, religious background, ethnicity, nationality, marital history, personality, and so on.
I believe this is a form of screening for the agency, where they first understand the individual’s specific criteria to see if they are able to meet his/her expectations. There are people with unrealistic expectations of the kind of person they are looking for, and in the event that the agency is not confident that they can give them a satisfactory dating experience, they will be discouraged from signing up. I think this is good as it manages expectations vs. overpromising only to underdeliver later on. I adopt this approach in how I run my business too.
If you’re wondering about the answers I gave, I gave very open replies:
- Height-wise, can be 1-2 cm shorter than me (I’m 170 cm / 5′ 7″ tall) or taller.
- Weight-wise I’m open but not overly obese; age, anywhere a few years younger than me to even 10 years older than me.
- Looks-wise, not a critical factor but the guy should put due effort in personal grooming.
- Hobbies, nothing specific. Doesn’t matter whether the person is indoorsy or outdoorsy.
- Smoking, ideally non-smoker of course but it’s acceptable if he smokes.
- Drinking, social drinker okay. (I personally don’t drink.)
As you can tell, I was super flexible. Reason being I don’t want to limit my options based on surface criteria. For example, I used to think that smokers are totally out for me, but then I met someone whom I connected very well with (and he was a heavy smoker) while in Europe. And then when I was in my early 20s, I had, on separate occasions, met guys who were on the heavier side and thought they were out of my consideration, but then I started to like them over time. So, really, there are deeper factors at work. Read: Are Looks Important in a Marriage Decision?
So where I was specific was the personality, and even then I only mentioned 2 qualities: (1) kindness and (2) drivenness (i.e., achievement-oriented). From my experience with love, I’ve found that all the guys I liked before had these 2 qualities, so it’s important that my dates have these 2 qualities for us to be compatible.
Step 2: Learning How Lunch Actually’s Service Works
After the initial chat, Irene talked me through what a membership with Lunch Actually entails. Basically, every person who signs up is put through a personality profiling test and interview. This helps them understand the person better as an individual, of which the information will then be used to match him/her with other members in the database. This process takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.
After the information is processed, they will run the person’s profile against other profiles in the database. A series of matches is generated, after which the consultant will manually match the members one by one, eventually picking the best match for the person (based on the answers shared in the personality test, in the initial interview, and the consultant’s judgment).
From there, the consultant will run the match by each party to see if they are interested to meet each other. If yes, a date will be arranged. Both parties will then meet each other for the first time during the date.
After the date, there will be a feedback call where the individual shares feedback to the consultant on whether the match met his/her expectations and follow-up comments. This feedback will then be used to fine-tune future matches for the individual.
Step 3: Sharing the History of Lunch Actually (the Company)
Next, Irene talked me through a quick powerpoint presentation of Lunch Actually, including its history, success stories (members who hit it off and got hitched thereafter), and other facts.
Here, I got to ask questions and probe further into the facts. Here are the key points which I picked up:
- There are about 4,000 active members in Lunch Actually at the moment (July 2012). These are members who are available to be matched. Members whose accounts are on hold (either because they have found someone or because they want to take a break from dating) are not considered active members.
- About 60% of the members are females and 40% are males. (Update 2014: I understand that the figure has since skewed further toward females, with 70% female members and 30% males.)
- Members come from all industries, from finance to computing, to engineering, to accountancy, to teaching, and so on. Most are professionals who are too busy to date and hence are using LA to meet new people. Majority are degree holders and above, with others having diplomas or other qualifications.
- LA has been around for 8 years, making it one of the longest standing dating agencies locally.
- In these 8 years, LA has arranged over 18,000 first dates, and counting.
- Lunch Actually is pretty much the biggest lunch dating agency in Asia Pacific today, with branches in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. They are frequently featured in media. Those of you in these countries, you likely know about them from reading the news or through word of mouth.
Step 4: Picking an Appropriate Dating Package
At the end of the consultation session, Irene shared with me the date packages. There are 3 kinds: the 3-Date Package, 5-Date Package, and 10-Date Package. Each package includes a fixed registration fee. If the member renews his/her package later on, he/she will pay the renewal fee (the package fee, minus the registration fee).
I’m not too sure if they are okay with me revealing the exact prices, so I’ll just say that the packages start from SGD 2,100 / USD 1,600 onwards (as of 2014). It’s not cheap, definitely. The larger package you take, the more expensive but the lower the average cost per matched date. The average cost per date sums up to be about SGD 300-700 / USD 250-500 in the end. From what I understand, they revise (increase) their rates fairly regularly too, because at the point I enrolled, they were planning to increase their rates next month.
If you want to learn more about their service, you can book a consultation at the Lunch Actually website. The consultation is free and they don’t force you to sign up if you don’t want to*, so just give it a go and hear what they have to say. You get to have all your enquiries answered in person, and if you don’t like what you hear or you think it’s too expensive, simply say no!
* Update 2016: I was told by some readers that there is some hard selling that goes on. I’m not sure if this is something that changed lately or if it’s dependent on the consultant serving you. Either way, just remember that if it’s not for you, just say no.
Violet recommended that I go with the 5-Date package. She said there shouldn’t be any issues finding me compatible matches on a 5-Date Package, though height might be a challenge since I’m quite tall and the local guys are usually not that tall. So 5-Date package it is, and we’ll see how it goes before deciding how to best proceed later on! 🙂
I think 5 dates will be sufficient to give me a good taste of what the LA service is like and whether it is a good match for my needs before deciding whether to continue with it. As I already said in my first post, I’m joining LA to open myself up to meet new, compatible people and give the service a try, since I’ve never used it before. I’m not expecting the people I meet right away to be romantic matches, but it’ll interesting to see how the connection turns out!
Step 2: Membership Enrollment (After Signing Up)
After the initial consultation, I had to do a personality questionnaire and an interview for the official membership enrollment. Since I had to boot for a belated birthday celebration with my friends, I arranged to meet Irene again later in the week, on Friday, 1pm.
Firstly, Personality Questionnaire
So Friday came and I arrived at the office. Irene walked me through personality questionnaire (online) and then left me in the room to do it. It took about 15-20 minutes to complete. Easy breezy! It was kind of fun to do the questionnaire too, because it got me thinking about the more important vs. less important attributes to me in a partner.
Some of the questions are typical ones you would find on any dating site, I think. Like, would you prefer your partner to be introverted or extroverted? Traditional or worldly? And so on. Then, you select the top 3 criteria you are looking for in your ideal partner.
You also get to select your first preference in terms of height, age, race, religion, education qualification, past marital status, etc., followed by your second preference. I thought this was useful because it helped me clarify my priority areas.
There were a couple of parts in the questionnaire which I felt were slightly restrictive, in that I wanted to pick certain options but they weren’t available. In these cases, I simply went for the next best option.
Next: In-Person Interview
After I was done, Irene conducted an in-person interview with me, asking questions about myself and what I’m looking for in my desired partner. I thought this interview was extremely useful in filling in the blanks that a questionnaire wouldn’t be able to pin down!
The interview took about 30 minutes. Like the questionnaire, I found this fun. Some of the questions are things that I usually think a lot about in my own time! The questions that I found interesting included, “What are the 5 things you cannot live without in life?”, “What are the biggest turn-offs for you about a guy?” (or girl, if you’re male), “What are the most important things you look for in a guy?” (or girl, if you’re male), “How important is your career to you, on a scale of 1-10?”, “Are you more tidy/organized or spontaneous?”, among others. Some great food for thought here.
At the end of the interview, Irene took a picture and a short video of me. She told me that these will only be used for their internal matching and will never be shared with any external party or the matches. I suppose that they need a video to get a sense of the energy and the vibe of a person, especially since the consultants doing the matching would be people who haven’t met me before? Either way, I thought that it’s a good idea.
What’s Going To Happen Next!
So what’s going to happen now is that LA will process my answers, input them into their database, and run my information against other members. This process will take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks.
After that, they will do a manual side-by-side comparison with short-listed candidates before narrowing down to the one best match. This will take another 1-2 weeks. When that happens, they will contact me to get my feedback (and the match’s feedback as well) and arrange for the first date.
All in all, another 2 weeks to a month before any major update. Stay tuned!
Proceed to part 3: Going Through Image Coaching!