Start a restaurant or cafeteria in Dubai

Open a restaurant in Dubai

Start a restaurant or cafeteria in Dubai [2019 Guide]

The UAE food and beverage industry has seen substantial growth in recent years. Between 2013 and 2018, the market has increased in size by 22% – up from USD 10.8bn to an estimated USD 13.2bn.

With Expo 2020 now a little over a year away – an event that is expected to bring in 25 million visitors to the Emirates – the market is only expected to grow further.

Within this burgeoning market are millions of expats and international visitors with an appetite for eating out. The UAE is home to restaurants of every cuisine imaginable from Chinese and Italian to American diners.

Whatever your culinary niche, you can be sure there is an audience for it here. And the best part is, restaurant formation in Dubai is very straightforward in the right hands.

Your guide to restaurant formation in Dubai 

The process for opening a restaurant in Dubai involves a few additional steps on top of the usual business licensing process.

As well as applying for your trade license, you will also be required to obtain a food license. You must also have the restaurant blueprints approved by the emirate’s food control department.

Your standard license application can be made to the Dubai Department of Economic Development or to the relevant authority if you wish to set up in a free zone.

If your application is successful, you can then apply to the Dubai Municipality food safety department. Here, you will be required to submit details of your eatery, including floor plans and information regarding your food storage and preparation areas.

The Dubai Municipality has strict regulations regarding everything from ventilation to emergency exits so it’s vital that you familiarise yourself with these before submitting your application.

The Dubai Municipality has strict regulations regarding everything from ventilation to emergency exits so it’s vital that you familiarise yourself with these before submitting your application.

When applying for your license, you must specify the exact nature of your business activities – i.e. do you intend to open a cafeteria, start a restaurant or open a bar. You should also make clear what type of cuisine you intend to sell and where you intend to sell it – eat in only, at pop up locations, for takeaway etc.

It can be a good idea to work with a company formation expert who is familiar with the relevant regulations at this stage. Not only will this save your time but it will also greatly reduce the chances of your application being delayed or rejected.

If you intend to serve alcohol, you also need to look into how to open a bar in Dubai. Whether you intend to operate a standalone bar or start a restaurant that sells alcohol, the licensing process is largely the same.

In order to sell alcohol, you must apply to the Dubai Police General Headquarter for a liquor license. You will be required to submit an application which includes personal details and information about your business and the amount of alcohol you intend to sell.

The application process

There are a couple of additional steps to the application process that you need to be aware of when starting a business in the UAE. The first applies to your business name. While choosing a name is often something that many entrepreneurs take for granted, it’s a very important step in the company formation process – particularly in the UAE.

Open a restaurant in Dubai

In the Emirates, as well as choosing a name that is memorable and conveys the essence of your brand, you must also adhere to strict, yet straightforward, naming conventions.

In short, you should not include any offensive or blasphemous words in your business name, nor should it include the name of any famous organisations such as the CIA. There are a few more minor considerations too but a company formation specialist can help you navigate these to ensure your chosen name meets the criteria.

The final step is to check that your chosen name is available to register. Once again, a company formation expert can do this for you.

You will also be required to apply for visas for you and your employees. You can handle this directly with the relevant immigration authorities or apply as part of your free zone license application.

In either case, it is vital that your application contains no errors and is completed correctly. That’s why it is a good idea to work with a company formation specialist at this stage who can manage the visa process on your behalf.

The number of employee visas you can apply for will depend on your location and the nature and size of your business.

The number of employee visas you can apply for will depend on your location and the nature and size of your business.

Finally, when starting a business in Dubai, you can also sponsor your dependants – such as a spouse, parent or child – for their UAE residency visas too.

Starting a restaurant business in Dubai

Whichever licenses you require – trade, food, liquor or a combination of the three – the process for obtaining them is not overly complex.

Having said that, making any business application can be an involved process and requires a working knowledge of local business regulation – particularly when it comes to the sale of alcohol. If you are unfamiliar with the process, there is a risk of inaccurate applications and subsequent delays.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation expert when making your application.

With the help of a company formation specialist, your business could be up and running within a week. All that is required of you is some basic documentation – such as passport copies and your application form – and a little of your time. Then you can rest assured that your application is both accurate and complete.

A company formation specialist can take care of everything, helping you decide between free zone and mainland, managing your entire license and visa applications, and even helping you open your corporate bank account.