How to start a catering and food delivery service business in Dubai, UAE


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The UAE’s food and beverage industry is huge – and is only expected to get bigger. Recent estimates put the size of the market at approximately AED 142bn with projections for growth up to AED 145bn by 2021.

Within that vast market, catering companies and food delivery businesses are on the up. According to a recent survey by KPMG, 60% of UAE consumers use an app to order food – that’s compared to just 18% in the US.

The strength of the market is highlighted by the recent news that Zomato has sold its UAE food delivery arm for USD 172m. Meanwhile, UAE startup success story Careem has also recently announced plans to raise USD 150m to start a food delivery arm to break into this lucrative market.

It’s not hard to see why this area of the market is so popular out here. The UAE, and Dubai in particular, is home to a large population of affluent, busy professionals who have grown used to the on-demand nature of food delivery.

This presents a huge opportunity to entrepreneurs with the skills and the knowhow to see success in the world of food and beverage. If that sounds like you, there’s more good news – with the right support, applying for a catering license in Dubai can be incredibly straightforward.

How to start a catering business in Dubai

There are a few initial steps that need to be taken when starting any business in Dubai or the UAE. The first is to choose a company name.

Keep in mind when doing this that the UAE has a rather idiosyncratic set of naming conventions that you’ll need to adhere to. For example, your company name should not include any offensive or blasphemous language or make reference to known organisations and corporations.

If you are going to include your personal name in your business name, it must be in full – no abbreviations or initials. You must also check that your chosen business name is available to be registered. A company formation expert can do this for you as part of the license application process.

You must then decide whether you wish to opt for a free zone or a mainland setup.

Should you wish to set up in the mainland, you can make your trade license application to the Department of Economic Development (DED) or municipality of the emirate that you are setting up in. If you wish to establish your company in a free zone, then you must submit your application to the relevant managing authority.

Whichever setup you choose, a company formation expert can help you with this step, even going so far as to manage the entire application process on your behalf.

Applying for your catering business license

As well as applying for your trade license, there are also a number of catering license requirements that you’ll need to consider.

With your trade license in hand, you can apply to the Dubai Food Safety Department for your catering license.

As part of your application, you must provide a floorplan of your kitchen and food preparation area including details of all entrances and exits, food processing areas, food storage areas, all windows and ventilation, all food processing equipment and all washing equipment.

You must also adhere to the UAE’s ‘Food Code’. This covers everything from where food can be made and stored, ventilation, cleaning facilities and much more.

Assuming you meet the catering license requirements, you will receive your license to carry out food delivery activities and be ready to trade.

If you are looking to get your company license in the UAE, free zone, or mainland, or even in Qatar and Saudi Arabia –  then our team can help. We also offer monthly installment plans for UAE company registration.

We also offer monthly installment plans for UAE company registration.

How to start a food delivery app

While you’re free to accept orders however you wish – be it walk-ins, by telephone, or online, the method on the rise right now in the UAE is via an app.

Naturally, this does entail some additional costs, but due to the extra level of convenience it offers to your customers, it could be money well spent.

Unless you possess app-building skills, the best approach here is to work with a company that specialises in mobile app design. There are many to choose from, mostly based in India – and plenty with experience of designing food delivery apps.

In terms of food delivery app cost, this really depends on the level of functionality you require. As a ballpark figure, you should expect to pay anywhere between USD 10,000 and USD 30,000 for an app that will meet your needs.

Catering license cost

Naturally, most entrepreneurs starting out in this space want to know – how much is a catering license? However, it is not easy to estimate the cost of a food service delivery license as there are multiple factors involved – everything from the size and location of your business to the cost of your premises and ingredients.

The first cost to consider is your trade license. You can obtain a food and beverage license from Fujairah Creative City, inclusive of one visa, for AED 22,200. On top of this you’ll need to factor in the cost of your food safety license, your kitchen and premises, and app development.

Setting up your food delivery service business in Dubai

If you’ve got the right skills and are armed with the right knowledge, setting up a food delivery service in Dubai doesn’t have to be overly complex.

That being said, there are a few additional hoops to jump through compared to simply applying for a trade license and it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your trade license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.

To help you to ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as Set Hub  when establishing a new company in the UAE.

We are the team of Business Incorporation Zone, your best business setup advisor across the Gulf Region. If you are looking to open your company in Dubai, across the UAE, in KSA or Qatar, get a free zone license, or start a business in the mainland, then we can help. From visa applications to all the necessary admin tasks, we handle it all – leaving you free to get on with your business.