It's already wooed and won thousands of lonely hearts in Hong Kong. Now speed dating is about to try to seduce the millions of single people on the mainland searching for love. The first mainland franchises for speed dating - a system where up to 50 single people are brought together in a club and have three minutes to meet each member of the opposite sex - are expected to be sold soon in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. The deals are being brokered by WhirlWindDate, which has staged three speed dating evenings a month in Hong Kong since launching last August and has already sold a franchise for a Singapore operation. General manager Cynthia Chan Kar-man said: 'We think there is a huge potential market.' Speed dating, which began in the US and Britain, claims to take the embarrassment out of singles evenings by creating a succession of brief encounters, after which participants secretly nominate the people they want to see again. If the forms match, the organisers send e-mail addresses to the participants the following day so they can contact each other. Companies like WhirlWindDate say speed dating increases single people's chances of a match, although critics call it superficial and faddish. Dating agencies are already widely used on the mainland and Ms Chan said she thought that although people might initially be shy of the concept of speed dating, they would soon realise its advantages. 'People in places like Shenzhen and Shanghai are not actually too far removed from Hong Kong,' she said. 'These cities are cosmopolitan and similar to the culture of Hong Kong and the people there are well educated. Many of them are professional and they have spare money to enjoy their life and find partners.' Single people who sign up for speed dating will have their details put into the WhirlWindDate computer and will be able to meet Hong Kong people online. 'I think that cross-border romances are very possible, especially with young professionals in Shenzhen,' said Ms Chan. 'A guy may find a girl who he thinks is very suitable for him even though she's on the other side of the border, and they may try to meet up.'