D Marketplace Single Trends Liaisons at Lunch

So, you’re single, you’re attractive and successful. Ok, so why is it so hard to meet that special someone?

Bar hopping isn’t for you. Your friend’s most recent fix-up was a disaster, and well, just forget your mother’s idea of Mr. or Ms. Right.

Enter It’s Just Lunch!, a dating service for busy professionals that hand selects couples for lunch dates. The company was born in 1991 in Chicago. Founder Andrea McGinty’s fiance jilted her 5 weeks before the wedding, and she began the tedious search for a way to meet “normal,” well-educated professionals. Her friends sent her out on blind dates, she tried personal ads and even thought about a dating service, but she just wasn’t comfortable with any of the options.

The ideal date, she decided, was a lunch date. Ms. McGinty launched the company with the simple premise: a dating service based on a personalized screening and a painless meeting with her to determine whether she had the type of people the client would like to meet.

Jennifer Donnelly heads up the Dallas office. “The typical person I meet every day is not just a busy and successful individual, but they have also done extraordinary things with their lives. My job never even feels like a job; it feels like fun and I am making people happy and that’s why I’m doing it.”

Ms. Donnelly has been with IJL for several years and is very proud of her successes. “Many of my matches have resulted in second dates,” she says. “But my biggest high is when they call and tell me that they would have never met otherwise. I love going to the weddings!”

And, It’s Just Lunch caught on quickly! The company currently has 28 offices with over 20,000 clients with plans for international expansion this year.

Lisa Starr and terri Bailey love matching their clients. “People call us and say they are picky,” says Ms. Starr. “And, that’s exactly why we’re here: to be picky for them.”

The dating service caters to an upscale audience, Ms. Starr explained. Nearly 100% have college degrees, 75% have a graduate degree; many are lawyers, doctors, bankers and business executives. Men who join are in age from 26 to 55, most women from 24 to 45. In fact, one of It’s Just Lunch’s recent success stories occurred in a matter of 6 hours.

Elizabeth, a 33 year old advertising executive came in at 10 AM and joined the service Tim, a 37 year old doctor, signed up at 4 PM. “1 was so excited during the interview with Tim because I knew I had exactly what he was looking for…. Elizabeth. They were both passionate about the outdoors; he had just come back from a mountain climbing trip and she had just finished biking in Italy,” says the director. Her gut was right on the mark! They have been dating for 7 months The majority come to It’s just Lunch because they are tired of the bar scene, have not been meeting the right people or they don’t want to date co-workers.

The professional approach appealed to John, a 43 year old Dallas attorney. He saw an article about the company in Forbes magazine and liked the efficient, no-pressure approach. “I was meeting most people through work or acquaintances, but I wasn’t happy with who I was meeting because I didn’t feel anyone knew what I was looking for in a potential mate,” John says. He decided to call It’s Just Lunch because he liked the private and discreet process the company uses. “1 just did not want friends or co-workers to know I was doing this,” John says. He was also a bit concerned about the women he would meet. The firm does not use videos or picture books.

It wasn’t until his fourth lunch date that John met Ann, a 32 year old professor. “Yes, I knew in the first 10 minutes. Our lunch date lasted nearly 3 hours and we’ve been dating exclusively for the past 5 months,” claims John.

John still doesn’t want most people to know how he met Ann, though he has discreetly mentioned the service to 2 colleagues.

More than 70% of her clients are referred by another client, Ms. Donnelly says. In general, a client calls the service for information. Then, a one hour meeting is set up between the client and Director to discuss the type of person they’d like to meet. A wide array of topics are covered: age, education, background, hobbies, interests, people they have dated in the past and what their goals are.

If It’s Just Lunch can offer good matches and the person decides to join, IJL accepts a $1,000 check for a one year membership. Within 48 hours, the company will call to tell the client all about their first date. The service handles all of the information in a confidential manner-while both people will know a lot about each other, last names and phone numbers are not given. It’s up to the clients to do so after they have met-and most of them do exchange phone numbers and make plans to get together again. Then, they each check in with the company and give feedback on the date.

Ms. Bailey and Ms. Donnelly claim it is their good “gut” instinct and the personal attention that makes It’s Just Lunch so different from other services. And, the evidence is tangible: wedding photos, a baby photo and thank you notes decorate their bulletin boards.

Ms. Starr smiles and confesses to being a romantic at heart. “There’s absolutely somebody for everyone,” she says.

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