How to Open an F&B Business in Dubai – Part 1: Rules & Requirements

Author: Paul Bryson, Group Commercial Director
start-f&B-business-dubai

Are you an aspiring restaurant owner? Would you like to share your grandmother’s secret recipe to food lovers in Dubai? Then it’s time to start your own food business and make a living out of your passion! 

The food and beverages sector has been rapidly growing for the last 10 years and the market shows no signs of stopping. In fact, F&B is one of the UAE’s most lucrative industries, with the food sector valued at over AED 131 billion, and the beverages sector valued at more than AED 11 billion, according to Dubai Exports.  

Additionally, according to MENA Research Partners, the GCC’s food and beverage industry will grow at a rate of 71.6% yearly, totalling USD 196 billion by 2021. So if you’re planning to open a restaurant in Dubai, now is the time to do it! 

Whether you’re looking to serve authentic local cuisine or offer a variety of international flavours, these are the things you need to consider when opening a restaurant or food business in Dubai.

How to open a restaurant, food truck or cloud kitchen in Dubai

With a diverse population of locals and expatriates, it is no wonder that Dubai has become a cornucopia of cuisines from around the world, from French, Italian and Greek, to Vietnamese, Chinese and Arabic. There is also plenty of room for making your food business creative and attractive. 

Whether you want to go for luxurious and exclusive, to cozy and homey, you are free to create the vibe and atmosphere you want for your restaurant, coffee shop or food truck.  
 
However, like any business setup in Dubai, the F&B industry follows administrative regulations, especially when it comes to food preparation, safety and hygiene. 

For all aspiring F&B entrepreneurs in Dubai, here are the key requirements you will need to comply with:

1. Licences

Mainland

You need a trade licence if you are planning to open a restaurant in the mainland jurisdiction of Dubai. To obtain a trade licence from the Department of Economic Development (DED), you must first select a trade name. Prepare at least three trade name options that meet the UAE’s strict set of naming conventions, so you can have an alternative in case your first option is already registered and taken. 

Remember that your trade name must not have any offensive or blasphemous words or language, and must not include names of well-known organisations and abbreviations, such as Microsoft or KFC. (For more information on how to choose a company name for your UAE business, click here.) 

It is important to note that the operating name of your business does not have to be the same as your corporate name. For example, your corporate name can be ABC LLC and you can operate your restaurant or food truck under the name Burgers XYZ. 

The next step is to outline your business activity in detail. Will it be a restaurant, a bar or a café? You must also submit the required shareholder and Local Service Agent (LSA) documents. 

(The LSA is a type of sponsor who does not own a part of your company. The LSA must be a UAE national and will act as your company’s representative in dealing with the government.)

Once you receive your trade licence, you must go to the Food Safety Department of Dubai Municipality to obtain a food licence for your restaurant.

Free zone

If you wish to open a food business in one of Dubai’s free zones, all you have to do is submit your application directly to the relevant free zone authority. In free zones, you are allowed to hold 100% of your company shares and you do not need a local sponsor or LSA. However, your trade activities might be restricted. 

For example, you might be required to have a cloud kitchen services provider, so you can offer and deliver your food products to all of Dubai, and not just within the free zone where you are operating. 

Kitopi, Kitchen Nation and Sweetheart Kitchen are some of the leading cloud kitchens in Dubai, where the cloud or ghost kitchen segment has seen incredible growth even during the pandemic. 

2. No Objection Certificate

Securing an NOC is the second mandatory step for certain food businesses, such as non-event food trucks and kiosks. All you need to do is submit an ID card and active trade licence to the Food Safety Department in Dubai. The NOC is usually delivered within two working days.

3. Architectural regulations

Restaurants in Dubai must follow the design and layout regulations applicable to their approved activities. As such, a blueprint of the restaurant must be submitted to the relevant authorities to show that the design is compliant with the following guidelines: 

  1. The kitchen area should be at least 300 to 380 square feet in size, or should account for at least 40% of the total area of the restaurant.
  2. The restaurant should have a good ventilation system, with the chimney built to be 2 metres higher than the nearest building(s). 
  3. The walls, floor, and roof of the restaurant should be washable, non-absorbent and fireproof.
  4. Separate basins must be provided for different activities, such as washing utensils, washing vegetables and preparing meat. 
  5. It should have a storage facility for different food items.
  6. The drainage pipe should be at least 2 inches away from the wall.

4. Food Code

Published by the Dubai Municipality’s Food Safety Department, the Food Code is a comprehensive document intended to assist the Person-In-Charge (PIC) at food establishments.

The Food Code outlines the obligations of PICs and equips them with the information they need to carry out operations, as per the requirements and standards of food safety and personal hygiene. 

Observing these regulations allows restaurants to achieve a higher degree of compliance with the relevant food regulation authority, while adopting industry best practices in food handling and safety.

5. Food safety measures  

Specific requirements apply to different food transportation vehicles, including containers, trucks, cars and bikes. These must comply with strict regulations for proper storage, delivery and segregation of different food items to avoid contamination.  

6. Special permits

These refer to Ramadan, liquor, pork and delivery permits that are mandatory for any restaurant business in Dubai.

7. Pork products 

There must be a separate space that is properly outfitted for handling pork food products.

8. Non-halal food, pork or alcoholic products

Such food items must clearly be mentioned in the menu.

Want to know how to successfully run and manage an F&B business in Dubai? Keep an eye on our blog section to read the Part 2 of our F&B business blog series!

Start your food and beverage business with Virtuzone 

Setting up an F&B business in Dubai can be daunting, given all the strict requirements and paperwork. Our highly experienced and qualified team is ready to support you in obtaining your food and trade licences, aside from other special permits that you might need. With our team by your side, the journey to starting your own food business can be a smoother, easier and simpler process. 

If you want to know more about how to start an F&B business in Dubai or anywhere in the UAE, please fill out the form below so our team can schedule a free consultation for you.

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Disclaimer

UAE laws and regulations as well as pricing related to company formation are subject to change without notice. While we produce our content on the basis of thorough research, laws and regulations might have changed since this content was published. Furthermore, responsibility for any information in external links lies solely with the operator of the third party website.