Lunch … and a Little More

Lunch … and a Little More
Today’s Omaha Woman (July/August 2005)
By Wendy Townley

At some point in your dating life, you’ll experience an evening out that doesn’t end soon enough.

It could be a blind date gone terribly wrong.

It could be a set-up by a mutual friend that proves, within the first 15 minutes of the evening, your mutual friend doesn’t know much about what you want in a partner.

Most of these dating traumas occur during the evening hours, when escape isn’t always an option. How many times do you have a last-minute conference call with a client at 8 on a Friday night?

The team behind It’s Just Lunch knows all too well the white lies we tell when trying to wiggle our way out of a not-so-great date. That’s why their dating service brings potential mates together over the work week’s lunch hour.

It’s Just Lunch is a national organization that was founded in Chicago about 15 years ago. Its founder, Andrea McGinty, was looking for a no-hassle way to meet men over the lunch hour after she was left at the altar by her fiancé. Today, It’s Just Lunch is an international company with 80 franchise locations around the world.

The Omaha franchise office, owned and operated by Kathy Merwald, opened its doors last November.

Merwald, a graduate of Westside High School and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the low-pressure approach to dating is ideal for busy professionals.

“That first introduction is not long and drawn out between the two people,” Merwald says.

It’s Just Lunch clients meet with the staff to determine what he or she looks for in a potential partner. They also ask about dating histories.

The staff then matches each individual based on his or her interests, and the two meet for lunch. It’s Just Lunch schedules the lunch at a participating restaurant convenient for both clients. Neither client speaks to the other person before the lunch.

The lunch reservations include each person’s first name, as an issue of safety. That way, Merwald explains, neither client is forced to provide the other with his or her last name.

The lunches typically last around an hour, although some couples opt to meet for drinks after work, as well.

After the first meeting, each client reports back to It’s Just Lunch. If they want to see the other person again, they can schedule a date on their own time, without the assistance of It’s Just Lunch. That person’s name can be held from the It’s Just Lunch client list for up to one year.

Merwald, who has been in a committed relationship for the past 10 years, says 70 percent of first-time clients meet their picked partner for a second time.

“You can’t always match chemistry,” Merwald, 37, explains. “It really is a trial and error process. And a lot of it is timing.”

The proactive approach to dating is something new, Merwald says. She points to an example of someone looking for a new job.

“You don’t sit around and wait for someone to hire you,” Merwald explains. “You network and meet people. You have to have an active approach. People do this with everything else in their lives.”

The Omaha It’s Just Lunch office has clients from all sorts of professions, Merwald says. Eighty-seven percent have a college degree. A great number also own their own businesses.

On a national level, It’s Just Lunch has been responsible for more than 10,000 marriages and 2 million dates per year. Most clients use the It’s Just Lunch service about twice a month, Merwald says.

Merwald believes online dating, which saw droves of applicants in the past 10 years, has hit a standstill.

“Online dating has introduced people to become comfortable using a dating service,” Merwald explains. “People are always busy. In the last few years, people have refocused their lives and realized they need more than just their work. They’re also looking for a relationship.”

While all of It’s Just Lunch clients are different, Merwald says she sees common themes among those looking for love in 2005.

“People want someone with integrity, honesty, a sense of humor and common interests,” Merwald says. “The basic stuff in what people are looking for in a partner hasn’t really changed.”

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