Violet Lim: The Cupid behind Lunch Actually

Story By
Cita Arsita Farani

Some people might be put off by the very idea of a matchmaking service, fearing the commonly expected formal, awkward situations. Launched just last year in Jakarta, Lunch Actually becomes the alternative for busy, eligible singles in the city to meet their prospective dates. Like its name suggests, it brings matchmaking to a more casual concept: a simple lunch to get to know the other person and decide whether you’re willing to give it a shot. Join InClover as we chat with the lady behind Lunch Actually, Violet Lim.

What inspired you to start Lunch Actually (LA)? How did it all begin?

⇔ I started this company with my husband Jamie Lee in 2004 after I realized that many of my colleagues were single and not dating. I was working in a bank prior to that. That was rather puzzling for me as they were attractive and eligible people.

I soon realised that it is because they were working really long hours, they were virtually married to the bank. When I came across the concept of lunch dating, I was immediately attracted to the idea because I felt that lunch was ‘short, sweet and simple’ - it is long enough for you to get to know someone, yet it was not too long that it would become awkward. Having always been passionate about helping people, I decided to quit my job and start a new career as a modern-day matchmaker, where the business is not just about making money, but helping to make a difference in people’s lives by helping them find their life-long happiness.

What makes LA different from other dating services?

⇔ Lunch Actually is South East Asia's first and largest lunch dating company. Unlike many local matchmakers who are often a one-man or one-woman service, Lunch Actually to-date has presence in 5 cities, 4 countries and have 75+ full-time associates. We have a well-tested and well-proven matching algorithm that has created many happy unions and our service has a high satisfaction rate among our tens of thousands of clients.

Other than just being a platform for singles to meet, we also provide date coaching and image coaching services to help our clients increase their success rate. Online dating may be convenient, but it can be frustrating at times because you never know whether the other person you’re talking to online is really the person they claim to be. With Lunch Actually which is a completely offline service, clients can feel safe and secure because we meet and screen each member in person and verify their identities before we sign them up and send them on 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.

One of the reasons why many singles like Lunch Actually is because they can enjoy privacy and confidentiality. Other than their dating consultant and their date, nobody needs to know that they have signed up for a dating service. On the other hand, with online matchmaking sites, often you have to put up your photo and profile for all to see.

  What makes LA's love consultants reliable? Did they receive any kind of special training?

⇔ Yes, they would have to go through classroom training as well as on the job training. They need to really take the time to learn more about the preferences of the clients. What kind of profile, physical and personality preferences do they have? This includes age, education level, religion, ethnicity, smoking and drinking habits, heights and build. And personality preferences would include characteristics such as introverted vs extroverted, spontaneous vs organised etc. We meet every one of our clients for face-to-face consultation and this matchmaker’s assessment is very important because sometimes how clients perceive themselves may be different than how others perceive them. We also take the time to find out about our clients’ past relationships, passions, values and what is most important to them. So there you have it; by using the plethora of information we have, we handpick each and every match for our client.

What's the current success rate for LA?

⇔ Across all the countries (Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia) and product lines (both offline and online), we have close to 400,000 members. As we do not position ourselves as a marriage agency, we do not measure our success rate by marriages. We measure our success rate by how our clients rate our matches after each date. Of the more than 30,000 dates we have arranged, 85% of these dates have been rated as satisfactory to excellent by our clients. Now, we hear of good news from our clients every week - be it a successful couple or a marriage, or sometimes even a LAB - Lunch Actually Baby!

♦  Is there any difference in the matchmaking process between the cities?

⇔ Generally, the matching preferences and requirements are the same for all the countries. 

Can you tell us more about your clientele? Who is looking for love in LA?

⇔ Our clients comprise single, busy, eligible professionals and executives from various industries, such as banking. Majority of them is from their late-20s to mid-30s; they are successful professionals who are seriously looking for that special someone but due to their hectic lives, are unable to find them. They are 70% Degree holder, and 19% Masters and PhD holder. Generally, they are the same across other cities.

How does LA plan to grow from here? Will they open in other cities or expand their services?

⇔ We would like to expand into more markets in the region to reach out to more singles. We would also continue to build on our positive company culture to grow and develop our Cupids and Transformers as we work together to hit our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of creating one million marriages!

♦  Can you tell us about your other businesses aside from LA?

⇔  Yes, as mentioned in the previous question on what makes Lunch Actually different than other platform, we also provide date coaching and image coaching services under the umbrella of Lunch Actually Academy to help our clients increase their success rate. Aside from that, we also offer hybrid of online-offline dating service eSynchrony and a dating app for serious daters, LunchClick. Singles who choose to use LunchClick appreciates that we target serious daters e.g. asking for NRIC number, “one match a day” and also eliminating chat that would help to deter scammers who usually use chats to con people online. LunchClick is currently available in Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, and plan to launch to Indonesia very soon.

Photo courtesy of Lunch Actually