Crain's Cleveland Business

For the Love of Business

Lunch Date Owner Serves Single Scene

Every time Mike Green arranges lunch for someone, it could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Mr. Green isn't a corporate scheduler but rather is the matchmaker behind Lunch Date, an unusual dating service strictly for white collar professionals who feel isolated by the warp speed chaos pace of the business world. "These days, there are a lot of professionals who are too busy to spend time meeting new friends or finding romantic or lasting relationships," said Mr. Green, a University Heights native who has a degree in marketing from Ohio State University. Mr. Green in 1991 left a marketing position in Chicago to return to Cleveland and a medical marketing job. In 1994, tired of sales and marketing and remembering his feelings of detachment in Chicago, he started lunch date. "Cleveland is a very segmented town where people from the East Side and the West Side don't meet," Mr. Green said. "These people may be divorced. They may travel for their jobs, or have been transferred away from family and friends. They don't have time or the inclination to do the Flats bar scene or the personal ads."

Apparently Mr. Green's concept for more than just a lonely hearts club for busy professionals has found a niche. Mr. Green said he has amassed a database of over 1,000 clients since 1994 by arranging low pressure, non committal meetings in restaurants, coffee shops and other neutral venues. He said most of his clients are college educated and earn more than $50,000 a year. For $595, Mr. Green promises to arrange six "dates" over six months with similarly employed and educated people of the opposite sex. Mr. Green said clients often meet the person of their dreams before they have used all six referrals; in those cases, most people agree either to end the contract or to have it remain on hold to see if the relationship works out. Mr. Green said about 20 couples he has brought together have told him they were considering marriage. Mr. Green will not make same sex arrangements.

One female client, a 30 something, once divorced corporate attorney who asked not to be identified, said the Lunch Date concept "is especially good for females." The female client said Mr. Green "checks out the clients, makes sure they are not married, (makes sure) they work where they say they work and want what they say they want. And you are always free to say 'I just don't want someone that short, or red-headed, or whatever.'" One male client, a divorced financial planner for a large brokerage house in Cleveland, likewise has been satisfied with his Lunch Date experience. "It has been a good way to meet people," said the man, who also declined to be identified. "I might have theater tickets, or want to go out, and I need someone to go with of my own age and tastes. I'm probably going to have a lasting relationship, but even if I don't find it this way, I have made good friendships."

Indeed, clients say it is Lunch Date's detailed but discreet research and in-person interviews with each prospective client that make the difference between it and other dating services. Mr. Green and four part-time associates assemble information on applicants' likes and dislikes, hobbies and their professional and social goals. He then offers profiles of other clients who might be compatible. After the meetings are arranged, clients are on their own to continue the relationship or choose another. Mr. Green invites clients to critique their meetings so that he can refine his knowledge of their tastes and further tailor their next date.

"We listen to what they think clicked and what didn't, so that the next time it can be an even better experience," he said. "With common sense and a feel for the people, you can find good matches."

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