The history of speed dating starts with Rabbi Yaacov Deyo. In 1998, the rabbi and a group of his students created speed dating as a way to help Jewish singles meet each other. Pete's Cafe in Beverly Hills was the location for the first speed dating event in the fall of 1998. The event has evolved over time, but still retains its trademark round robin format.
The format of speed dating is simple. An equal number of males and females meet at a cafe or lounge. Each is given a name tag, a pen and a score sheet. Women are seated by themselves at small tables around the room. At a signal from the host, each man will go to one table. Each pair has between three and eight minutes to chat with their "date" and get a basic impression of the person. At the end of the set time period, a bell is rung and the men switch to another table. This continues until everyone has met. In between rounds, participants are given a minute to jot down if they are interested in meeting someone with whom they spoke. Afterward, cards are handed to the event staff. Later, emails are sent to all participants who have received interest from those with whom they they have also expressed. In some cases, additional information about participants is available online. Emails can then be sent to the participant if there is further interest.
An advantage of speed dating is that each date is only a few minutes long. With a blind date, for example, it might be discovered after an hour that there is no mutual interest, but the two people are in for a long, dull evening together. Speed dating is over quickly but still offers a basic impression of the person. Another advantage is that everyone who attends these events is theoretically there to meet someone new, which makes the experience much easier than trying to go up to a stranger at the local pub. These events are also great for those with limited time on their hands.
As evidenced by the number of speed dating organizations, the events are somewhat successful. Close to half of all participants receive interest from another person. This is not to say that they live happily ever after, but there is a decent chance that an opportunity exists to meet someone new and explore the potential between a couple.
Speed dating events are organized regularly in the United States, Canada as well as the United Kingdom. Many variations on speed dating are quite popular including those geared toward specific ethnicities, religions, political affiliations, sexual orientations and other commonalities.