Need a date for a work do? Don't want to dine out alone?

Website Rent A Friend offers to provide plus ones for a range of social occasions, but is a rental service the best way to form a long-lasting friendship?

How do you determine a buddy from a BFF?

Solani, left, has been on the website for two years and even keeps in touch with a person she met on it. Credit: ITV News

"Some people might want to do something out of their friend circle with a complete stranger, they might want to go for a coffee and just a chat," explains London-based friend-for-hire Saloni.

She is one of the 600,000 friends listed on the website.

For around £20 an hour you can hire Saloni to act as a tour guide, spot you at the gym or even cheer on your favourite football team.

Having signed up two years ago, she has kept her schedule busy.

And although she hasn't started charging "mates rates" just yet, she insists she has kept in touch with a former friend who now lives abroad.

"It's a transaction at the end of the day, there's no strings, there's no emotional attachment, you just go and be a friend and go away," she added.

The socialising app movement

There are over 600,000 friends listed on the RentAFriend website. Credit: ITV News

Apps such as Tinder and Bumble have made socialising through technology more of the norm, but the movement is now going beyond dating as people look for new ways to connect.

Now people can ask for anonymous advice from half-way across the globe and even recruit mourners to fill out a funeral.

Rent A Friend CEO Scott Rosenbaum originally added his company to the "friend market" after seeing similar versions successfully operate in Japan.

It is now approaching its 10th year of business.

"We were the first and are still the largest Rent A Friend service around the world," he said.

Friends who sign up get to keep all the money they earn for their companionship.

He said: "If you need a platonic friend to attend a wedding or work party with you, there are friends who are willing to sell their time to accompany you to the event."

The loneliness epidemic

Could the service cure the UK's loneliness problem? Credit: ITV News

Mr Rosenbaum said: "There have been many occasions when friends have contacted us and have told us that they have become real friends with the members who originally hired them.

"As long as the friendship is platonic in nature, and no one is being harmed, I think it’s an amazing service," he said.

Members range in age from between 18 and 85.

Its continued existence shows that, with an estimated nine million people in the UK admitting to feeling lonely, more and more appear willing to pursue less traditional paths - and pay their way - to find lasting friendships.