Violet Lim, Founder Of Asia’s Largest Dating Company Reveals Three Major Keys For Healthier Relationship

Lunch Actually was founded in 2004 and has become one…
By: Aqilah Najwa Jamaluddin
February 14, 2022

The idea of using ‘’dating apps’’ or ‘’dating platforms’’ to find your one true love is no stranger to today’s generation. In fact, we have seen the rise of dating app users in the beginning of March 2020 up until now. In 2020, Tinder claims its users swiped 11% more and matched 42% more compared to previous years, making the app’s busiest year yet. The data clearly shows that more people have become more reliable on dating apps when it comes to seeking companionship. But the real question here, how have dating app firms responded to the epidemic since dating apps were intended to enable people to connect online and then meet in person? And what does their role in assisting individuals in adjusting to this new dating reality entail?

Glitz by Beauty Insider decided to swipe right to Violet Lim—CEO & Co-Founder at Lunch Actually Group, a dating and matchmaking company that she co-founded with her then fiancé, now-husband Jamie Lee, back in 2004. Her philosophy is simple and straightforward—to help singles find love by being, meeting and choosing the right one. Leveraging on both technology and the human touch, Lunch Actually has successfully arranged more than 140,000 dates and brought together more than 4,000 successful and married couples.

In conjunction with celebrating the month of love, Violet Lim reveals the three major keys when it comes to establishing a healthy relationship, phrases you should avoid on a first date and how Lunch Actually successfully became the safest and trustable matchmakers in Asian region! Hey, you could be next

Tell us a little bit about how you started Lunch Actually?

Before I started Lunch Actually, I worked as a Management Associate in a bank. At that moment, I observed that many of my colleagues were single and not dating. That was rather puzzling for me as they were attractive and eligible people. Then I realised, it was because they spent so much time working. Having always been passionate about helping people, I decided to quit my job at the bank and start a new career as a modern-day matchmaker. 

I started Lunch Actually in 2004 with my husband, Jamie (at that time he was my fiancée). Today, Lunch Actually has a presence in 5 countries in Asia and we have arranged over 150,000 first dates and created 4,500 happy marriages. Other than just offering a platform for singles to meet, we also provide date coaching and image coaching services to help our clients increase their success rate.

Why the name ‘’Lunch Actually’’?

We had a word document with more than 100 potential business names. We definitely wanted to have the word Lunch in the name because when I came across the concept of lunch dating, I was immediately attracted to the idea. Lunch was ‘short, sweet and simple’. Out of the many names, our favourite was actually “A Lunch Martini”. In fact, we liked it so much that we already got our designer to start the logo design. The good thing was that, rather than just trusting our own decision, we sent a list of 5-8 shortlisted names to our closest family and friends and asked them to vote. Interestingly, most people hated “A Lunch Martini”. And the one that got the highest votes was “Lunch Actually”. So, thank God we had the wisdom to go with the crowd favourite and not our own.

We saw the rise of dating app users at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020—and it looks like it won’t stop anytime soon. For the majority, what exactly is their main focus when they hop into this platform? What are their sole objectives?

During the early phase of a pandemic, dating probably wasn’t the first priority in singles’ mind. There’s health and safety concerns, then also the uncertainty of the pandemic. After a while, they started realising that the pandemic may last longer than we expected, and therefore, we can’t put our life on hold. Eventually, more singles also are more open to the idea of going back to dating because in this period more than ever, they desire love and companionship.

In the following year, using dating apps and virtual dates became the alternatives. The response of virtual dates has been positive, and more singles are definitely getting more open and receptive towards the idea. In fact, because most of us are staying home, singles actually have more time to invest in their personal development, whether it’s trying new recipes, exercising more, learning new skills, and in dating, also meeting more people through virtual dates. It’s a new and fun experience for them, and at the same time, they’re still making progress in their love life to achieve their goals.

What sets Lunch Actually apart from other dating sites out there?

Unlike many local matchmakers who are often a one-man or one-woman service, Lunch Actually to-date has presence in 6 countries and has 70+ 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.

Lunch Actually, 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. 

Walk us through the process of match-making from this site?

First, we will invite every potential client to our office to have a chat with our dating consultant. During this chat, we will find out more about their profile and preferences. After that, should we have suitable candidates for them, we will offer them a membership package. We will also do some ID and background checks. Based on their profile and preferences as well as our dating consultant’s assessment, we will proceed to find their first match. Each and every match is handpicked by our well-trained dating consultant. We will then contact both parties to share with them the details of the match. Once the match is approved by both parties, we will proceed to arrange the date, book the restaurant, and finalise the arrangement. All they need to do is to turn up at the restaurant and enjoy their date. After the date, we will contact both parties again to get their feedback. Based on their feedback, we will fine-tune the dating criteria to find them their next match.

Do you see any common traits or criteria that people in Asian countries look for in a partner? Is there a pattern?

According to our dating survey, the top 3 criteria that single men across Asia are looking out for in a partner are: age, body type and education level. While for women, they are age, income level and education level. Indeed, everyone has a checklist of what they think their partner should be like. These are actually good-to-have, but NOT must-have, because these attributes have no correlation to what makes them a good husband or wife. Yes, it’s a good idea to know what characteristics are most important to you, but when you become inflexible about those criteria, you end up missing out on many interesting people. So if someone is too hung up on these superficial criteria, our job as a dating consultant is to manage their expectations and share with them why these are not the criteria they should focus on. Instead, look at the person’s maturity, kindness, generosity, their outlook on family, career, goals and the things that really matter in the end.

Have you ever stumbled upon weird dating scenarios from Lunch Actually clients?

There was once a date where we thought it was a really good match. The couple initially thought so too. They had a great start to the date, sharing many things in common. However, things turn south when the guy asks the lady where she works. Turned out that the lady works at the same place as his ex-wife. (The lady has indicated that she’s ok to date divorcees) And it turned out that the ex-wife has been bad-mouthing him. So, unfortunately, that date did not work out too well. However, the gentleman was very understanding and he knew that it was not something that was within our control.

As a dating site founder, is there such a thing as the perfect relationship?

Some people might think, perfect relationships are relationships that will stay lovey-dovey forever like the love stories we saw in movies and TV. However, I believe relationships and marriages are like a plant. A plant needs water, sunlight, good soil and fertiliser for it to grow and flower. A relationship too needs mutual love, respect and understanding for it to blossom. If you leave it and do not care about it, it will definitely winter and eventually die. In any relationship, there will be ups and downs, peaks and valleys. It is up to the couple to work through the challenges together and make the relationship perfect for the two of them.

In your own words, what are the three things someone can do today to strengthen their relationship?

First and foremost, if you do not know about gender differences, please find out more. Men and women are different. I have friends who complain to me about their husband or wife, and I tell them – even if you change your husband or you change your wife, the same problems will still exist. So why don’t you just find out what makes men or women tick? Just because you think in a certain way, it does not mean the other gender is the same.

Secondly, learn how to fight. It is ok to fight as often as you want. But you need to fight the right way. Avoid the 4 things that could damage your relationship – Contempt, Criticism, Stonewalling and Defensiveness. When you argue, do not go into character assassination. Do not criticise the person, but focus on the action or the incident. Do not just point your finger at the other person. It often takes 2 hands to clap. What is your own contribution to this situation? And do not sweep things underneath the carpet. Do not always run away from the issue and hope that it would resolve by itself. 

And last but not least, find out what your partner’s love language is. We express love differently. In a public workshop that I held years ago, a woman in her 50s came to me at the end with tears in her eyes and she told me that, after 20 years of marriage, she finally knows that her husband loves her. Her love language is words of affirmation but she has not been hearing many “I love you” and praises from her husband. Hence she thought he doesn’t love her. But her husband’s love language is actually an act of service and that’s what he has been doing all these years, helping out in the kitchen, sending her and picking her up from work, changing the light bulb without being asked etc. 

Real talk, what phrases do you wish someone would avoid or stop using when starting a conversation?

1. Talking about an ex

Perhaps, for some of us, talking about an ex is a way to share more about ourselves and our experiences. But you have to keep in mind, if you do, your date might think that you haven’t moved on from the past.

2. Talking too much about yourself

Try to make open-ended questions. A flowing back and forth conversation is the best way to make sure you have a balanced yet interesting discussion.

3. Bragging about your income

We agreed that having a partner who is the same ‘level’ is important nowadays. During the first date, is it an appropriate topic to bring up? Especially when there’s no trigger about income conversation before, you shouldn’t suddenly bring that up during the first date. 

Last but not least, what do you hope for your clients to achieve when signing up for Lunch Actually?

First of all, we hope that they can be happy with themselves, and do not come into dating thinking that a partner will complete them. A woman who is happy on her own comes across as self-assured and confident, and of course happy. Same thing with the man. So first advice would be to love yourself first. Keep an open mind and open heart when you’re dating and meeting new people. You’ll be surprised with what can come your way when you welcome love. Do not stress yourself out thinking that you are about to meet your future wife/husband. Take it as you are just meeting a new friend, and take it from there. By also being open and meeting more people, you will also learn more about yourself, know what you want (and don’t want). We cannot guarantee that our clients can get a perfect match. We tell them upfront that we cannot guarantee chemistry. It is only after they meet up, they can decide whether they would like to “take it further”. So enjoy the process and have fun!

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