Finding a Match at Dinner 4 Six
By Melissa Mendonca
Date NightFebruary 2015
By Melissa Mendonca
A hunter and a vegetarian walked into a New Year’s Party organized for singles. They ended up getting married. They’ve stayed that way.
“That’s the kind of success story that really speaks to what Dinner 4 Six really does,” says Shawn Davis, the 62-year-old entrepreneur of a unique singles service that brings people together in a lighthearted way that encourages them to enjoy being single while increasing odds of finding a companion.
“I’m not a matchmaker,” says Davis. “I’m an opportunity maker.”
Opportunities are created through a fairly simple formula. Singles fill out a profile for Davis, who then sets about organizing a multitude of weekly dinners and social gatherings that encourage people to get to know each other in a low-pressure way.
A typical dinner for six will bring three similarly aged men and three women together at a local— usually Chico-based—restaurant on a Friday or Saturday night. Participants enjoy a meal together without sharing last names or contact details. Th ey order separate checks. If a spark of interest ignites, it gets reported to Davis the next day so she can either schedule the two together at another event, or, if the spark is mutual and requested, share contact details to each involved.
People who prefer a more lively opportunity may sign up for weekly mixers or activities such as hikes, parties and wine tastings.
“It’s all about eliminating their fears,” Davis says. “A lot of my helping people is just getting them not to shoot themselves in the foot.” Th at can range from gently encouraging a gentleman with a penchant for wearing his expensive plaid pants from the ‘70s on through the ‘90s to reminding people fi rst and foremost that they should enjoy being single. “Th e expectations kill people,” she says. “Expectations are premeditated disappointment.”
Instead, she encourages people to arrive to Dinner 4 Six events with an open mind and a sense of joy. “Expect to have fun,” she says. “People who are having fun are very attractive people.”
About that hunter and vegetarian — it turns out they had several friends in common and had been on the periphery of each other’s lives for quite some time. When the vegetarian asked her friends why they hadn’t introduced her to the hunter, they said, “You would have asked if he was a hunter and you would have said, ‘Well, forget that.’”
Davis bought the Dinner 4 Six concept in April 1997, before the internet became the household and handheld staple that it is today. A lot of her organizing was by phone. At the time she was still employed matching foreign exchange students to host families, a job she enjoyed for 15 years. Th at job was hit by the recession and, suddenly unemployed, she says, “I had to reinvent myself. And that’s when it became my full-time job.”
“I was already close to 50. Who was going to hire me? Once I had to make this make money, I put all my time and energy into it,” she says. Although it took her six months to recover from the loss of her job, she managed to hold on to her assets. “My car never got repossessed. My house never got foreclosed. Th e water never got turned off . Somehow it worked.”
It more than worked. Davis, who was divorced at the time, also met Steve, who signed up for Dinner 4 Six and was attending events for about four months before she asked him to lunch. “I just liked the way he walked,” she says with a laugh. “Th ere was attraction there but it wasn’t until we had that lunch and our brains started getting engaged that I went, ‘Wow!’” They married in 2005.
Her next piece of dating advice: “Start looking for somebody that engages your brain.”
To date, Dinner 4 Six has several marriages and long-term relationships to its credit. One of Davis’ great joys has been to attend weddings of people who met through her service. These are people she refers to as friends, rather than clients. “I was still planning dinners for six on my honeymoon,” she says of her dedication.
“I used to joke when I was in advertising that I was selling time, air and space. Now I’m selling hope,” she laughs. Still, she says, of Dinner 4 Six, “It’s been the best job of my life. I talk on the phone. I email. I Facebook for my friends all day long. And I throw parties for them.”