Channel 4’s First Dates is back, with its 16th series of perfect matches, awkward moments and debates over who’s picking up the bill.
Fred Sirieix is returning to manage the First Dates restaurant – however, the iconic diner is moving locations to Manchester, where a new batch of waiters will be making their debut on the show.
Here’s everything you need to know about the brand new staff members as well as which waiters will be returning for series 16.
Manchester-based Daniella worked in the hospitality industry before joining the First Dates restaurant and has served many first daters throughout her career.
She’s joining Fred’s restaurant as a waitress and gets the most excited when she knows her table is a match from the start.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press outlets, Daniella said that walking into the First Dates restaurant for the first time was “so surreal”.
“When you go through the interview process, it’s just a waitress job – but when you walk through the doors and you see the pink love heart and Fred walks through the door, it is really surreal but it is amazing to be in it.”
She added that she was surprised to find that the First Dates restaurant functioned like a real diner. “It’s such a real restaurant – I didn’t expect it. We were rushed off our feet several times.”
On whether she’d consider taking part on the show, Daniella revealed that she had applied in the past. “I did apply a few years ago, I think when I was 18. You know when you’re so desperate and single and I just thought, ‘Someone take me!’ But they never replied to me.
“Somehow I’ve landed on this and maybe this will help me find it [love].”
Teasing the upcoming series, Daniella said to watch out for some amazing outfits. “I think with it being in Manchester as well, we can’t give away too many spoilers but obviously, I think people in the north have a bit of a weird, funky sense of style so you’ll see some cool things. You’ll see some excellent things.”
Liverpool-based David started working in the hospitality industry aged just 13 and comes from a silver service background, having previously worked as a host for The Ivy in London where he’d regularly look after celebrity guests.
A self-professed “fabulous Scouser’, David studied fashion at Salford University and is currently working on launching his own fashion brand, having been an intern for Vera Wang in New York and worked for clients Nicki Minaj, Kendall Jenner and Kylie Jenner while his first collection received a full spread in Vogue Magazine.
David is joining the First Dates restaurant as a waiter, having never missed an episode of the show.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press outlets about joining the show, David said: “From being a fan of the show and watching it on TV for all these years since 2013, it was what I expected but it was just so excited and it was surreal to be there.”
On what it was like filming during the pandemic, David reassured us that daters were able to get intimate with each other whilst still following COVID-19 guidelines.
“When we are filming it is a closed set and our restaurant is not open to the general public during filming so when we were there, we did follow strict protocols which did enable us to be in a safe environment, which did allow some daters to be able to kiss if they wished.”
While the Liverpudlian couldn’t give too much away about the upcoming series, he did reveal that it was “a whirlwind of emotions for everyone”.
“It just is. It’s gonna be amazing – just tune in.”
Huddersfield-based Fiona is joining the First Dates restaurant as the new bartender alongside Merlin whilst still working in advertising.
Having previously lived in Manchester for six years, Fiona is no stranger to the city and has experience working in bars and restaurants, as well as modelling, having strutted catwalks in Paris, Barcelona and New York.
Fiona’s job in the First Dates restaurant will be to serve daters drinks whilst getting juice gossip out of them.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and the press outlets, Fiona opened up about becoming Merlin’s apprentice. “There’s a lot pressure there because obviously Merlin’s been doing the job for so long. So it’s been so nice to actually learn from him and learn a few of his tricks.”
She added that viewers shouldn’t expect the COVID-19 protocols to change the show in any way. “You probably won’t to be honest notice the difference just because it’s more of a production thing but we’ve all been tested, everyone was tested like at least once or twice every other day and there were just procedures in place to make sure it could run as a real restaurant and no one had to worry about touching each other.”
Teasing the upcoming series, Fiona said: “There’s so many different characters and people from different walks of life and different age groups, so you basically see everything and you see so many different stories.”
While when it came to meeting and working with Fred, she said that he’s “exactly how you’d think he would be”.
“He’s such a cheeky character, he’s really easy to get on with, he’s always really upbeat so it’s been really cool to first meet Fred and then work alongside him. He still will run a very tight ship – he’ll be saying, ‘what’s this drink like? Is it good enough? Clean up your work station because it’s messy’. So he’s a great balance on being really fun and making sure that jobs get done.”
Maître d’hôtel Fred joined the First Dates restaurant in 2015 and has sine been catapulted to fame, appearing on BBC Two’s Million Pound Menu and Gino, Gordon and Fred: Road Trip.
Fred was the general manager at restaurant Galvin at Windows for 14 years up until 2019 and since joining the show, he has released a book called First Dates: The Art of Love.
Barman Merlin is one of the first faces First Dates guests tend to see when they arrive at the restaurant, with the mixologist chatting to them before they are seated.
Having been a bartender and mixologist for over 20 years, Merlin has been a First Dates cast member since the show’s very first series and regularly appears on Saturday with James Martin, making cocktails for viewers.
Waitress Cici joined First Dates in 2015 and has been a key staff member ever since, working part time in the restaurant.
Prior to appearing on First Dates, Cici began her career as an actor, training at New York Film Academy and featuring in film Red Butterfly and Essex Vendetta alongside Daniella Westbrook.
In recent years, she’s appeared on Celebrity Driving School and Celebability.
Waiter Grant has been a member of the First Dates staff since 2017, having honed his hospitality skills in York-based pubs.
Alongside working in the First Dates restaurant, Grant has appeared on 4 Music’s Trending Live and in various stage productions, including Godspell and Just So.
First Dates returns for series 16 on Tuesday 19th January at 10pm on Channel 4.