Starting your cafeteria or restaurant in UAE

April 01 2019

Starting Your cafeteria or restaurant in UAE


The UAE today is undoubtedly one of the largest growing economies in the Middle East and the restaurant sector in particular has experienced spectacular growth over the last couple of years, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Following the worldwide craze in ‘foodie’ movement, it’s not that tough to know why Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the happening places for all hopeful restaurateurs, with benefits like:

  •          A flourishing and varied group of customers from each continent of the world like Asia, Europe, The Americas, Australasia and the Middleast
  •          The fastest-growing tourism industry
  •          The government’s strong commitment towards growing the economy and GDP
  •          Having attractive incentives for starting restaurants or cafeterias in the F & B (Food and beverage) industry

Before officially starting your cafeteria or restaurant in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, consider how you will approach these 4 important aspects:

1.      Securing Your Food And Trade License

The first-step towards starting your cafeteria or restaurant in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is to secure your food and trade licenses. The food license can be obtained through the Food & Safety department while the Trade License should be acquired through the Department of Economic Development & Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. If you are likely to offer something additional in your business, there are a number of unique licenses you can apply for. These include:

  •          Delivery permit
  •          Liquor permit
  •          Pork permit
  •          Ramadan permit
  •          and more.

A license is a critical part of the entire process. It is important that it is done properly and on time so that you can start thinking of opening the doors to your restaurant or cafeteria as soon as possible. Insufficient or improper filing/ renewal of your Food and Trade license may leave your business vulnerable to legal fines – and even closure. Getting your business to simultaneously take off and keeping it profitable from there means obtaining the necessary licenses and then doing the paperwork with proper standing from the correct authorities. Seek expert advice from consultants who have sound knowledge and experience about how these things operate in the UAE since the rules in the Middle East are quite different compared to those in Europe and America.

2.      Selecting The Best Location

When you are starting a business – especially in the food and beverage industry – location is everything. Your location and determine your customers and your potential for gaining traction, and even the best restaurants can suffer from poorly-chosen locations. Dubai has formed numerous different business zones that focus in different sectors such as the Media City, the Internet City and the Education City. Then there are tourist zones such as the Jumeirah Beach Walk, or the top-end residential zones such as Arabian Ranches and the Palm. It is important to wisely choose a location which will only enable your restaurant type and the kind of budget your customers prefer. For instance, students tend to lean towards low cost cafeterias as they are not into full-time work – while areas which are frequented by tourists staying in the five star hotels may prefer more luxurious and exotic restaurants.

When you are making a pivotal decision, you must ensure that the location is not just where your target customers are but also where your competitors haven’t already saturated that area. It might be incredibly helpful to get local assistance from contacts who can not only share great locations for your restaurant or cafeteria venture, but also share areas in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that are potential hot spots in the future.

For example, Blue Waters Island in Dubai is currently under construction and it is set to host the world’s largest observation wheel called the Ain Dubai. A restaurant zone is being planned out here which targets potential tourists from across the globe. This could be a great place to consider for setting up a restaurant in Dubai.

3.      Setting Up A Business Plan

A professional business plan must cover 4 areas:

  •          Clear goals for your restaurant or cafeteria business
  •          Comprehensive outline of your capital spend to maximize your restaurant’s venture profits
  •          Back-up plans to deal with any unexpected scenarios
  •          Protection for your business and brand as you progress in the marketplace.

4.      Deciding To Go With Free Zones Or Mainland

In the UAE, free zones are a low-cost option to establishing your business and provide a highly targeted consumer base for your restaurant – however, the mainland provides more opportunities for expansion.

As is with many countries in the GCC region, the commercial law in the UAE states that a foreign investor cannot own above 49% of an LLC and must partner with one or more Emiratis (Either an individual or a company) who will therefore own a minimum of 51% of the company shares.

One option to remove the need to explore the ideal local partner altogether is to set up an LLC with a professional corporate local partnership specialist who will ensure that agreements are in place and will enable the foreign investor to fully control and manage the business, as well as retain the intellectual property and assets.

Do get in touch with us today for a detailed chat!


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