Start a restaurant in Dubai [2023 Guide]

entrepreneur starting a restaurant in Dubai


Dubai, a city renowned for its diverse food culture and booming restaurant industry, presents a lucrative opportunity for aspiring restaurateurs. This article serves as a comprehensive guide to navigate the process of starting a restaurant in this vibrant city.

From understanding the initial costs, obtaining necessary licenses, to selecting the perfect location, crafting a unique menu, and investing in the right technology, we’ve got it all covered.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and insights needed to make your mark in Dubai’s competitive restaurant industry.

Understanding the market

Dubai’s restaurant industry is not only diverse but also highly profitable. This section delves into the intricacies of the market, providing a clear picture of the potential profitability and the unique food culture that defines Dubai.

The diverse food culture in Dubai

Dubai is home to over 200 nationalities, each contributing to the city’s rich and diverse food culture. This multicultural environment offers a wide array of culinary experiences, making the city a global food destination.

The city’s food scene is not just about international cuisines. Local Emirati dishes also hold a special place, offering a unique blend of flavors that reflect the region’s history and traditions.

Potential profitability of the restaurant business

The restaurant market in Dubai is valued at around USD 3.3 billion, with fast food restaurants accounting for around USD 1.5 billion. This indicates a significant potential for profitability in the industry.

Moreover, residents in the UAE eat out on average 6.75 times per week, higher than the US average of 4.2 times. This high frequency of dining out presents a lucrative opportunity for restaurant owners.

Costs to consider before opening a restaurant

Starting a restaurant in Dubai involves various costs, from licensing and rent to staff training and equipment. This section provides a detailed breakdown of these expenses, emphasizing the importance of budgeting and financial planning in the success of your restaurant business.

Detailed breakdown of potential expenses

The cost of setting up a restaurant in Dubai can start from approximately AED 15,000. This includes the cost of obtaining a trade license and other necessary permits.

In addition to these, there are other costs to consider such as rent, interior decoration, kitchen equipment, and furniture. The cost of these items can vary greatly depending on the size, location, and concept of your restaurant.

Importance of budgeting and financial planning

Budgeting and financial planning are crucial for the success of any business, and restaurants are no exception. A well-planned budget helps you manage your resources effectively, ensuring that your restaurant remains profitable.

It’s important to keep track of all your expenses, from the big-ticket items like rent and equipment to smaller costs like utilities and supplies. This will help you understand where your money is going and identify areas where you can cut costs.

Obtaining necessary licenses

To legally operate a restaurant in Dubai, you need to obtain certain licenses and permits. This section provides a step-by-step guide on how to procure these licenses and highlights the additional permits that may be required for your restaurant.

Explanation of the trade license and food license

In Dubai, you need two separate licenses to start a restaurant. The first is a trade license, which can be applied for via the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED) or via a free zone.

The second is a food license, issued by the Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department. This license requires you to submit a copy of your trade license and a restaurant floor plan that includes all entrances and exits, food processing areas, food storage areas, all windows and ventilation, all food processing equipment, and all washing equipment.

Step-by-step guide to procuring these licenses

  1. Outline your business activities: Specify whether you’ll be running a café, a restaurant, a food kitchen, etc. Include the type of cuisine you wish to sell and how you wish to sell it – eat-in, take-out, or delivery.
  2. Choose your company name: Ensure your chosen name adheres to the UAE’s naming regulations and is available for registration.
  3. Apply for your trade license: Submit your application to the DED for mainland setups or to the relevant managing authority for free zone setups.
  4. Apply for your food license: Submit your application to the Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department, along with the required documents.

Additional permits that may be required

Depending on your restaurant’s offerings, you may need additional permits such as a liquor permit, a pork permit, or a delivery permit. Ensure you identify all the permits you need and include them in your licensing process.

Choosing a restaurant concept and unique selling proposition (USP)

In the competitive restaurant industry of Dubai, having a unique concept and a compelling USP can set your restaurant apart. This section emphasizes the importance of these elements and provides tips on how to create a distinctive identity for your restaurant.

Importance of having a unique concept and USP

A unique concept and USP not only differentiate your restaurant from others but also help attract your target customers. Your concept should reflect in every aspect of your restaurant, from the menu and interior design to the service style and marketing strategy.

Your USP, on the other hand, is what makes your restaurant special. It could be anything from a signature dish or a unique dining experience to exceptional customer service or a sustainable business practice.

Tips on how to stand out in Dubai’s competitive restaurant industry

  1. Understand your target customers: Know their preferences, needs, and dining habits. This will help you create a concept and a USP that resonate with them.
  2. Be innovative: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Innovation can make your restaurant stand out and attract customers.
  3. Deliver on your promises: Whatever your USP is, make sure you deliver it consistently. This will build trust and loyalty among your customers.
  4. Keep evolving: The restaurant industry is dynamic. Keep up with the latest trends and continuously improve your concept and USP to stay relevant.

Selecting the right location

Choosing the right location for your restaurant in Dubai can significantly impact its success. This section discusses the factors to consider when selecting a location and suggests potential areas in Dubai that are ideal for setting up a restaurant.

Factors to consider when choosing a location

The location of your restaurant should be chosen carefully, considering several factors:

  1. Visibility and accessibility: Your restaurant should be easily visible and accessible to your target customers. High foot traffic areas are usually a good choice.
  2. Customer base: The location should be near your target customer base. For example, if your target customers are office workers, a location near business districts would be ideal.
  3. Affordability: The cost of rent should be within your budget. High rent areas may not always guarantee high foot traffic or customer base.
  4. Proximity to suppliers: Being close to your suppliers can reduce transportation costs and ensure fresh ingredients for your restaurant.

Suggested locations for opening a restaurant in Dubai

Dubai offers a variety of locations suitable for different types of restaurants. For high-end restaurants, areas like Downtown Dubai, DIFC, and Jumeirah are ideal. For casual dining or fast food restaurants, locations like Dubai Marina, Al Karama, and Deira could be considered.

Crafting the menu

The menu is a crucial aspect of your restaurant that can attract customers and drive sales. This section emphasizes the importance of curating a menu that aligns with your restaurant’s concept and provides tips on pricing and promoting high-profit items.

Importance of curating a menu that aligns with the restaurant’s concept

Your menu should reflect your restaurant’s concept and appeal to your target customers. It should offer a variety of options to cater to different dietary preferences and needs.

Remember, a well-crafted menu can enhance the dining experience, encourage repeat visits, and boost your restaurant’s reputation.

Tips on pricing and promoting high-profit items

  1. Cost-based pricing: Calculate the cost of each ingredient in a dish and mark up the price for profit. This is the most straightforward pricing strategy.
  2. Demand-driven pricing: Price popular items higher as customers are willing to pay for them.
  3. Psychological pricing: Price items just below a round number (e.g., AED 19.99 instead of AED 20) as it appears cheaper to customers.
  4. Highlight high-profit items: Use menu design techniques to draw attention to high-profit items. For example, place them in the center of the menu or use images to make them stand out.

Designing the restaurant layout

The layout of your restaurant plays a crucial role in its operation and the overall dining experience. This section discusses the importance of a well-planned restaurant layout and provides tips on how to organize it effectively to meet your operational goals.

Importance of a well-planned restaurant layout

A well-planned layout can enhance the efficiency of your restaurant operations, improve the dining experience, and increase your profitability. It can influence the flow of kitchen and service staff, the comfort of your guests, and the ambiance of your restaurant.

Tips on how to organize the layout to meet operational goals

  1. Kitchen area: The kitchen should be designed for efficiency. Arrange the cooking, preparation, and storage areas in a way that minimizes movement and improves workflow.
  2. Dining area: Arrange tables and chairs to maximize seating capacity without compromising comfort. Ensure there’s enough space for servers to move around easily.
  3. Entrance and exit: The entrance should be welcoming and the exit should be clear and easily accessible. Consider factors like visibility, accessibility, and safety.
  4. Restrooms: Place restrooms in a convenient location for guests but away from dining areas to maintain hygiene and ambiance.

Investing in technology

In today’s digital age, technology plays a significant role in managing a restaurant efficiently. This section explores the role of technology in restaurant management and the benefits of investing in a Point of Sale (POS) system.

The role of technology in managing a restaurant

Technology can streamline restaurant operations, improve customer service, and enhance the dining experience. It can help in managing reservations, orders, inventory, and customer feedback.

Moreover, technology can provide valuable data and insights to make informed business decisions.

Benefits of investing in a POS system

A POS system is a crucial technology investment for any restaurant. It can manage multiple functions like billing, inventory management, reporting, and customer management.

Here are some benefits of a POS system:

  1. Efficiency: A POS system can speed up the order and billing process, reducing wait times for customers.
  2. Accuracy: It can reduce human errors in order taking and billing, ensuring accurate transactions.
  3. Inventory management: A POS system can track inventory in real-time, helping you manage stock and reduce wastage.
  4. Reporting: It can generate various reports to provide insights into sales, popular items, peak hours, etc., aiding in decision-making.

Hiring qualified staff

The success of your restaurant largely depends on the people who run it. This section emphasizes the importance of hiring competent staff for various roles and provides tips on how to hire and retain good employees.

Importance of hiring competent staff for various roles

A restaurant requires a team of skilled and dedicated staff to operate smoothly. From chefs and kitchen staff to servers and managers, each role is crucial in delivering a great dining experience to your customers.

Hiring competent staff not only ensures efficient operations but also contributes to customer satisfaction and the overall success of your restaurant.

Tips on how to hire and retain good employees

  1. Clear job descriptions: Define the roles and responsibilities clearly to attract the right candidates.
  2. Skills and experience: Look for candidates with the necessary skills and relevant experience. However, attitude and cultural fit are equally important.
  3. Training: Provide adequate training to your staff. This will equip them with the skills they need and show them that you’re invested in their development.
  4. Competitive pay and benefits: Offer competitive salaries and benefits to attract and retain good employees. Recognize and reward their hard work and dedication.
  5. Positive work environment: Create a positive and supportive work environment. This can boost employee morale and productivity.

Opening a restaurant in free zones

Dubai’s free zones offer numerous benefits for restaurant owners, making them an attractive option for setting up a restaurant. This section explains the advantages of opening a restaurant in a free zone and outlines the steps to do so.

Benefits of opening a restaurant in free zones

Free zones in Dubai offer several advantages for restaurant owners:

  1. 100% foreign ownership: Unlike mainland Dubai, free zones allow 100% foreign ownership of businesses. This means you can fully own your restaurant without needing a local sponsor.
  2. Tax benefits: Free zones offer tax benefits such as exemption from corporate and personal income taxes.
  3. Easy setup: The process of setting up a business in free zones is usually simpler and faster than in mainland Dubai.
  4. Access to markets: Free zones are strategically located near ports and airports, providing easy access to international markets.

Steps to start a restaurant in free zones

  1. Choose a free zone: Dubai has several free zones. Choose one that suits your business needs and target market.
  2. Apply for a trade license: Submit your application to the managing authority of the chosen free zone. The process is similar to applying for a trade license in mainland Dubai.
  3. Get your restaurant plans approved: Your restaurant plans must be approved by the food control department of the free zone.
  4. Apply for a food license: Once your plans are approved, you can apply for a food license.


Starting a restaurant in Dubai is a promising venture, given the city’s vibrant food culture and booming restaurant industry. However, it requires careful planning and execution. From understanding the market and budgeting your costs, to obtaining necessary licenses and choosing a unique concept, every step is crucial in setting up a successful restaurant.

Selecting the right location, crafting an appealing menu, designing an efficient layout, leveraging technology, and hiring competent staff are equally important. For those considering a free zone setup, the benefits are numerous, including 100% foreign ownership and tax benefits.

While the process may seem daunting, remember that help is available. CSU offers expert guidance on setting up a restaurant in Dubai. Our team can assist with the licensing process, provide advice on location selection, help with staff recruitment, and much more.

Don’t let the complexities deter you from pursuing your dream of opening a restaurant in Dubai. Reach out to CSU for a free consultation call, and let us help you navigate the path to success in Dubai’s restaurant industry. Your culinary dream is within reach, and we’re here to help you make it a reality.