It’s a Friday night in New York City, and as the happy couples at Banc Café settle in for a romantic winter’s night, the attractive brunette in the corner banquette isn’t thinking about them.

“If there was someone here who I thought would be a good fit for a client, I would walk up to her right now and say, ‘Are you single?’ ”

Julia Bekker has taken natural and innate talent — reading people and figuring out their type — and turned it into her profession. She runs Hunting Maven, a New York City-based dating and coaching firm. “It may seem like an unconventional way to meet people, but it is really a very traditional process, and that is why I steer clear of the term matchmaker. I see myself as more of a relationship recruiter, or a head hunter for love and relationships.”

Bekker, who grew up in Orange and has family throughout Connecticut, moved to the city about 15 years ago in her early 20s to become a professional singer and songwriter. It was not for lack of trying, but as she approached her third decade, she decided it was time to get a “real job,” since Plan A had not yet panned out. A communications major from Quinnipiac University, she responded to a Craigslist ad for an event planner and executive assistant at a dating service.

She got the job, despite her confusion at the time. She had never crossed paths with a modern, professional matchmaker, and didn’t think they existed. “The only impression of a matchmaker that I had in my mind was like the one in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’” she says, laughing. “I didn’t know they were a real thing.”

The one she met was and is indeed the real thing. Bekker went to work with renowned matchmaker Janis Spindel, who became an important mentor. Spindel’s multimillion-dollar firm has been in business for more than 20 years, and by its account has fostered more than 2,000 marriages. Four years ago, after eight years with Spindel, Bekker broke out on her own. Her clients, men in their 30s to 60s, and her database of women in their mid-20s to 40s, are matched. Her services vary from scouting, selecting and screening potential matches (all get background checks), making introductions and connections, providing advice on places to have a date, general guidance, image consulting and more. They range in cost from $5,000 to $25,000.

“I’ve always been a natural connector,” she says. “I really get people, and I think they feel that.”

Over the centuries, matchmakers have helped families and individuals find potential partners for marriage. As these matches moved from more practical considerations to love and romance, people got more DIY in their approach — from running personal ads to attending mixers. About 50 years ago, the precursors to online dating arrived. These days, there are dozens of sites.

With so many choices, why would anyone pay someone to find love?

To gain advice, to keep one’s privacy or to simply cut the time it takes to find that needle in the haystack. Bekker is the middle woman, offering guidance, insight and opinion. She is single and can provide real-time advice at a relatively affordable price, considering the market. She is of the moment, and not adverse to online services, even though she runs her own services and has her own digital database to plumb. In some instances, she manages clients’ online profiles, filters matches and advises next steps.

“These people are willing to make time for the right person, but they don’t want to go through all the wrong ones to find the right one,” she says. “They just want to expedite the process.”

That helps if you are a man approaching the midcentury mark and want to settle down, or if you are divorced with children or are a successful entrepreneur and you can’t commit the time to the search. Maybe you are a busy, independent, attractive woman who wants to be matched up with equally committed prospects.

“Let’s face it, even when you are online, it is all a numbers game. You could go through 30, 40, 50 people ... to find the one that you actually want to go out with again,” she says.

Her big brown eyes scan the crowd. She is like a human database collector. She meets them in elevators, on the subways, while working out at the gym and when they register on her site. She is always “on.” A person’s appearance is the first draw, and then she discovers the deeper qualities by setting up a consultation. It’s not unlike a first, or perhaps (hopefully) second date.

Bekker is cool, composed, confident and funny, which must help with the honest advice she offers while assessing her clients’ wishes and aspirations — often the very person someone thinks they should be with is not the right fit. It’s what has led them to her door in the first place. It’s the kind of feedback you want from a friend, who happens to be a paid professional.

“I sometimes have to give them a reality check,” she says, but adds that under her watch, no one is going to be settling. Eight out of 10 of her clients end up in committed relationships. “Like I’ve said, no one is perfect, but someone is right.”

chennessy@hearstmedia.com;

Twitter: @xtinahennessy