Efficient. That is the word that came to mind as I sipped on my wine and surveyed the seven dining companions sitting around me in a private room at Buckhead’s Divan Restaurant & Hookah Lounge.
Welcome to Eight at Eight Dinner Club, which brings together four men and four women for dinner at 8 p.m. And in this world where online dating often fizzles out before it begins, I have to say it’s nice to have a chance to meet four potential suitors face to face.
“Eight at Eight was actually started by a family friend,” says Buckhead resident Sarah Kathryn Walmsley who owns the concept. “When I was 22, I found out that he was frustrated with running it. And thanks to my father matching me with this opportunity, I purchased the business from him and never looked back.”
For 18 years, the Buckhead- based company has helped 10,000 clients make new connections in Atlanta. According to Walmsley, the typical client is between 22 and 55, and about 98 percent have a college degree.
“The beauty of this approach is that group dinner parties are a way to find a new circle of friends—or love,” Walmsley says. “Also, all participants have paid a $450 membership fee. So they’re invested in the experience.”
The investment in the experience is what appealed to me. Dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble have allowed me to meet plenty of men. There are lots of flirty texts and winking emojis, but few result in an actual face-to-face date. And based on what Walmsley told me about her other clients, I’m not alone in this experience.
The social service’s process is pretty simple. First, I went through a 15-minute phone call with an Eight at Eight staffer who helps put the dinner groups together, so she could learn more about me. Then I registered online for a few of the weekly dinners that I could attend (which are offered at restaurants across Atlanta) over the next few weeks.
“Tables are put together by age, professional level, educational level and hobbies and interests,” Walmsley adds. “And then a hostess from Eight at Eight greets and introduces the diners to one another, and buys the first round of drinks to get the party started.”
By the end of my experience, my belly was full of tasty Persian food, I’d enjoyed an evening of good conversation with my dinner companions, and I had been asked out on a solo date by one of the fellas I’d had my eye on. It was easily an evening well spent.
3102 Roswell Road N.E.
STORY: Amelia Pavlik
PHOTOS: Sara Hanna