A 7-step Guide to Open A Restaurant in Dubai

For people who love cookery and sharing their culinary creations with others, it’s often a lifelong dream to open a restaurant. As an entrepreneur who is thinking of opening a restaurant or a cafeteria in Dubai, it is important to consider the time, money, legalities and commitment needed to start a food business.

Like any other business, a restaurant can’t run legally without a license. There are two licenses you need to obtain;

  • First Food Safety License from Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department, and
  • Second is Trade License from Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED).

Only the trade license requires a mandated fee by the UAE government to get the pot boiling.

The food safety license has no fee involved, if the documents are intact the Municipality approves it in a day.

Here is our seven-step guide to start off your restaurant in Dubai on the right foot

1. Area Requirements, Cost & Location

      Area Requirements:

  • For a Café – the Kitchen area should be minimum 250 sq. ft
  • For a small restaurant – the Kitchen area alone should be minimum 300 sq. ft
  • For a big restaurant – the Kitchen area alone should be minimum 300 sq. ft and the seating space is up to us (preferably around 750 sq. ft)

Scout a location based on your budget and preference. Keep in mind about the following:

  • Target customers: who will frequent the type of food you’re serving like Labour camps, Company setups, string of Offices.
  • Visibility & Accessibility: It is vital to provide a space for parking, rush to the suppliers and easy to take care of waste disposal.

To choose a better location to open your restaurant, you can find help from Retail brokers or research in Property Finder and Bayut portal.

2. Name Reservation, Company structure & Activity Registration (Initial Approval)

Reserve a trade name/ brand name and get the activity/activities sanctioned from the Dubai Development of Economic Department (DED).

This step is the Initial Approval stage, which will allow you to move forward in renting a space and gaining the necessary permits with Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department.

Also, at this stage you need to choose the restaurant structure. There are three types of company structures that you can choose for your restaurant:

  1. Limited Liability Company (LLC): provides a limited liability protection, however, you need to have a local partner holding 51% shares for this type of company.
  2. Sole Establishment (if one owner): does not provide limited liability protection for their shareholders.  
  3. Civil Company (if more than one owner): does not provide limited liability protection for their shareholders.  

All the above options here can be fully owned by foreigners without a local partner, however it is required to appoint a local service agent.

Apart from these, the restaurant is also required to obtain the following permits and licenses depending on the list of activities it wishes to perform:

  • Vehicle permit for transporting or delivering food products
  • Liquor License (if you are planning to serve liquor at your restaurant)
  • Shisha License (if you are planning to set up such a lounge in your restaurant)
  • Pork permit for handling and serving pork products
  • Ramadan permit (food outlets are allowed to maintain their operations during the holy month of Ramadan and provide non-fasting individuals with places to eat and drink)

3. Business Partner and Shareholder Agreement

If there is more than one partner in your restaurant ownership, you must legitimize the partnership between you and your Business Partner/Friend by signing an agreement at the Notary Public court.

The agreement is called Memorandum of Association or Partnership Agreement depending on the legal form you choose. If you choose LLC, then MOA would be signed, or alternatively, if you choose Civil Company, then Partnership Agreement is the correct document.

4. Ejari

Ejari means ‘My Rent’ in Arabic, which stands for the official tenancy contract between your business and the landlord who provides the space for your restaurant. Renting a space and having an Ejari certificate is one of the requirements to setup a restaurant in Dubai. Bear in mind that the premises need to comply with certain standards.

The layout provides a blueprint for smooth operations which must include;

  • Hot & Cold areas for processing food
  • Food storage areas
  • Utensils washing area & Hand wash stations
  • Food equipment and other supportive equipment slots
  • Windows & ventilation system
  • Entry & exit passages
  • Washrooms & Toilets

(i) Collect the Ejari and Plan layout from the landlord, in case it is a ready to move in restaurant.

(ii) If the place you have chosen is ready to move in, but the kitchen is not ready then you have to hire an Interior design company to obtain the layout.

(iii) Or if the location is not a ready to move in at all and still under construction you have to get the plans from the Building Contractor and hire an Interior design company to draw the kitchen layout for you.

Make sure to hire someone who has done similar work earlier so that they can help you with the Municipality approval as well.

5. Municipality Approval

The next step is to get approval from Dubai Municipality by producing the following documents;

  1. Initial Approval from DED
  2. Plan Layout
  3. Ejari

Upon completion of requirements the Food & Safety Authority of Dubai Municipality will view the above documents and issue the approval certificate.

If there are any changes required in the kitchen layout the Municipality will suggest it, review the changes, and then issue the approval certificate.

6. Trade License

Once you get the approval from the municipality, submit all the above signed and attested documents again to the DED to obtain your Trade License.

7. Operations

You can begin restaurant operations after this. A Municipality Inspector will come over to your establishment to verify your legal documents and check whether the layout & equipment’s are in place as per the approved layout and give you suggestions accordingly.

For more info about the Food Establishment Setup requirements, please visit here: https://www.dm.gov.ae/municipality-business/food-traders-establishments/

How CorpLex can help you?

So, there’s a lot to do, and you can expect some challenges along the way. It’s frustrating for any business owner to see their hard work sink into a pile of paperwork and vanish.

By seeking professional advice and investing in time to set up your business properly, you have a better chance of running an effective and profitable restaurant.

Contact our company formation experts at CorpLex and we can help you to establish your company on your behalf, make your license, visa applications, and take care of all the necessary administration, leaving you free to focus on other aspects which require your attention.

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