How to start a restaurant in Dubai- Complete Guide

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October 16, 2023


Do you have a comprehensive business plan to start a restaurant in Dubai? Are you familiar with the process of opening a restaurant in Dubai? This step-by-step guide provides all the essential information you need.

Dubai, with its diverse population of expatriates and its reputation as a global tourist hotspot, has become one of the world’s most vibrant food markets. Over the past few years, thousands of new food businesses have established themselves in this city.

With this valuable knowledge, it’s evident that starting a restaurant in Dubai can be a highly lucrative endeavor. To help you get started, here are the necessary requirements and a detailed step-by-step guide.

To launch a restaurant business in Dubai, it’s essential to secure two licenses: a Dubai trade license and a restaurant license in Dubai. These licenses serve distinct purposes and require separate application processes. To obtain the trade license, you must engage with the Department of Economic Development (DED) and provide the necessary documentation. Similarly, the restaurant license is acquired through the Department of Food and Safety. Failing to obtain both licenses could jeopardize the progress of your business endeavors.

Type of License Required

To launch a restaurant business in Dubai, you must obtain a Dubai trade license as well as a specific restaurant license. The trade license is procured through the Department of Economic Development (DED), and the restaurant license is obtained from the Department of Food and Safety. It’s imperative to secure both licenses, as failing to do so could hinder the progress of your business venture.

The Prerequisites for Establishing a Restaurant

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(A) Legal Requirements for Initiating a Restaurant in Dubai

Before you can proceed with obtaining a trade license, certain steps must be taken into account.

  1. Development of a Business Plan
    You are required to create and finalize a comprehensive business plan that encompasses your vision, objectives, goals, and budget. This document should outline your intentions and activities while also addressing contingency plans for unforeseen challenges. The Department of Economic Development (DED) oversees and supervises this process. Additionally, if you intend to obtain licenses for serving pork and alcohol, individual requests for these permits are necessary.
  2. Selecting the Geographic Region
    You have two options when choosing the location for your restaurant:
    • Free Trade Zone
    • Mainland Area
    The choice of region depends on your business preferences. Expatriate entrepreneurs often prefer Free Trade Zones because they offer full ownership (100%) without the need for a local sponsor. On the other hand, establishing a business in the mainland requires allocating 51% of the company to a local Emirati sponsor. However, for restaurants, the mainland is the popular choice due to its flexibility, allowing expansion throughout the nation.
  3. Selecting the Restaurant Location
    Once you’ve defined your business plan and region, you can proceed to choose the physical location for your restaurant. This decision necessitates careful consideration, taking into account factors such as customer demand for specific cuisines in the area and compliance with hygiene standards. Additionally, you’ll need to obtain various permits, including:
    • Pork license
    • Alcohol license
    • Delivery permits
    • Ramadan operation permits
(B) Physical Requirements for Starting a Restaurant in Dubai

This represents the second set of prerequisites, focusing on the physical aspects of your restaurant:

  • Interior Design Plans
  • Food Storage Location
  • Ventilation Systems
  • Fire Safety Measures
  • Entrances and Emergency Exits
  • Architectural Requirements for the Premises

Furthermore, you must ensure that your premises adhere to specific architectural standards, including:

  • Non-absorbent and fire-resistant floors, counters, and walls
  • Individual washbasins for cleaning meat, vegetables, etc.
  • The kitchen should occupy 40% of the total restaurant area.
  • Adequate ventilation systems in the kitchen.

Additionally, specific considerations may apply based on your intended business activities. Consulting a business setup agent can provide you with a tailored and detailed checklist to align with your specific plans and requirements.

Trade License Fees and Additional Expenses

The cost of a restaurant license in Dubai typically ranges from AED 10,000 to AED 15,000. However, the precise expenses for establishing a restaurant in Dubai can vary based on several factors, such as location, restaurant size, necessary approvals, procurement of supplies, and ingredient costs.

When estimating the overall expenses for initiating a restaurant in the UAE, consider the following costs:

  • License Fees for Starting a Restaurant in the UAE
  • Rent for the Restaurant Space
  • Legal Permissions
  • Staff Training Expenses
  • Capital Investments
  • Staff Visas
  • Interior Design and Furnishing
  • Kitchen Appliances
  • Initial Stock and Inventory

For a more accurate assessment of your specific business setup costs, we strongly recommend seeking a consultation with one of our expert company formation agents. They can provide a detailed breakdown of expenses tailored to your business’s unique requirements.

Visa Eligibility for a Restaurant Business in Dubai

To operate a business in Dubai, securing a residence visa for yourself is a prerequisite. Once you’ve obtained your own visa, you can proceed to apply for visas on behalf of your dependents, including:

  • Family Members
  • Employees
  • Domestic Help

Please bear in mind that the number of visas you can apply for depends on various factors, including the size of your restaurant, your invested capital, and the type of license you are pursuing.

To guarantee this, it’s highly advisable to collaborate with a business setup expert when founding a new company in the UAE. In addition to managing your license application, we can provide guidance on initiating corporate bank accounts and recommend the most suitable financial institution tailored to your precise requirements.

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