Restaurant license in Dubai: Everything you need to know


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Foodies around the world have an appetite for eating out. Whether it’s haute cuisine or fast food, this in an industry that just keeps growing.

According to recent figures, the international foodservice market is worth around USD 3tr. In this part of the world, the industry is just as sizeable.

MENA Research Partners predicts that the GCC’s food and beverage industry will grow at a rate of 7.1% per year, totalling USD 196bn by 2021.

The UAE is the second largest market in this space, accounting for 31% of the total industry in the GCC.

When we look at UAE residents’ eating habits, it soon becomes clear why the restaurant business is so vast in this part of the world. Recent research found that the average inhabitant of the UAE eats out 6.75 times per week – out-dining even the US which averages 4.2 times per week.

So, if you’re looking to start a cafeteria, restaurant or any other sort of eatery in Dubai, here’s everything you need to know.


How to start a cafeteria in Dubai

 Whether you want to open a cafeteria or start a restaurant business in Dubai, there are several steps that you’ll need to undertake. Some are standard company formation procedure in this part of the world while others are specific to the food and beverage industry.


Step 1: Your business activity

The first step before making your initial application is to outline your business activities. While you will be trading in the food and beverage industry, it is important that you specify whether you intend to run a bar, café, restaurant, take away kitchen and so on.

You will also need to make clear the type of cuisine you wish to sell and how you wish to sell it – eat-in, take-out, delivery etc.

It’s important that you include these details to avoid delays to your license application. You must also ensure that you do not carry out any trading activities that are not listed on your license. Because this is such a precise part of the application process, it’s a good idea to work with a company setup expert at this stage.


Step 2: Your name
Now you move on to the important matter of your company name. There are a few key things to keep in mind at this stage.

You must abide by a strict set of naming conventions: Avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register. A company formation expert can help you with this and every other step on this list.


Step 3: Your name

With these key decisions made you can now make your license applications. There are two stages to this process.

You should first apply for your trade license. If you wish to set up in the Dubai mainland, you should make your initial application to the Dubai Department of Economic Development. For free zone setups, you can apply directly to the relevant managing authority. In both cases, you are usually expected to provide the following documentation as a minimum:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copy of the proposed owner or owners
  • Two colour passport size photos.


As well as your trade license, you’ll also require a food license, issued by the Dubai Municipality’s food safety department.

At this stage, you must also get your plans approved by the food control department. To do this, you’ll need to provide the department with a copy of your trade license, the floorplan of your eatery, and details of all food processing areas, storage areas and food processing and washing equipment.

One of the stipulations of this license is that you adhere to Dubai’s Food Code. This covers everything from where food can be made and stored, along with requirements regarding emergency exits and ventilation.


  1. Your visas

You can also make visa applications for you and your employees at this stage too.

With the right guidance, the visa application process can be incredibly straightforward. Most company formation agents can help you with this step as well as with your license application.

As the holder of a UAE business license, you can also sponsor others for their visas too. This could be a spouse, parent or child, or a domestic worker such as a housekeeper.

The maximum number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your company, your chosen setup and, for dependant visas, your personal earnings.


Cost of starting a restaurant in Dubai

The total cost of starting a restaurant in Dubai can vary wildly. The cost of starting a food truck is likely to be much lower than if you take on large premises to open a restaurant, for example.

The area you wish to set up in, the number of employees you have, even your chosen cuisine can have a bearing on the cost of setting up in the food industry here.

The best way to get an idea of cost is to approach a company formation expert who will take the time to understand your requirements before drawing up a detailed quote.


Are you ready to start a restaurant business in Dubai?

Hopefully this guide has made it clear that if you’re armed with the right knowledge, setting up a restaurant in Dubai doesn’t have to be overly complex.

That being said, 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 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 a team of company registration professionals who are passionate about bringing the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs to life.

As well as handling your license application, Set Hub can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.

We also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visas applications that are required to trade in the UAE.

In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.