A person reviewing restaurant license documents with a Dubai skyline in the background. Text overlay reads 'The Complete Guide to Getting a Restaurant License in Dubai.

The Complete Guide to Getting a Restaurant License in Dubai

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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a high-income developing country with a federalist monarchy form of government. It boasts the second-largest economy in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $503 billion. While the UAE doesn’t have a publicly announced GDP target, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects global growth of 3.1% in 2024, with emerging market and developing economies like the UAE expected to grow at 3.0%.

The UAE’s population is remarkably diverse, with expatriates making up a significant portion (estimated around 85%) [Source: World Bank].

Agriculture plays a limited role in the economy, with approximately 80% of its products being imported [Source: (e.g., UN Food and Agriculture Organization)]. In 2022, the United States exported $1.28 billion in agricultural and related products to the UAE, making it the second largest export market for U.S. Agricultural products among the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and 25th largest in the world.

Market Overview

The UAE full service restaurants market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 18.56% from 2024 to 2029, reaching a value of USD 19.66 billion by 2029.
The largest market share by cuisine is Middle Eastern, followed by Asian. Latin American cuisine is the fastest growing segment.
Popular dishes include Al Harees, Fattoush, Shawarma, Chicken Curry, and Balaleet.

The UAE’s full-service restaurant market thrives on diverse culinary experiences. However, two regions reign supreme:

  • Middle Eastern Cuisine: This category boasts the largest market share (2022) and is projected for continued growth at a CAGR of 17.94% through 2029. Its popularity is fueled by a surge in demand for healthy and flavorful meals, aligning perfectly with the increasing health consciousness among UAE residents. The focus on wholesome ingredients like grains, legumes, vegetables, and lean meats makes Middle Eastern cuisine a natural choice for health-conscious consumers.
  • Asian Cuisine: Following closely behind is Asian cuisine, projected for a CAGR of 18.94% during the forecast period. This popularity stems from the long-standing appeal of staples like Japanese, Chinese, and Thai food among UAE citizens, residents, and tourists. The growing Asian expat population (60% of the 9.1 million expats in 2023 are of Asian origin) further fuels demand. Additionally, the UAE’s rising tourist influx from Asia and other regions with a fondness for exotic flavors contributes to Asian cuisine’s success.

The data also highlights the rapid growth of Latin American cuisine, with a sales value increase of 60.13% from 2020 to 2022. This trend is likely driven by the popularity of high-end Argentinian steakhouses and the recent emergence of trendy taco bars.

Obtaining a Restaurant License in Dubai

Location Selection:

Choose your operating area – Dubai mainland or a specific free zone. Each requires approval from the relevant authority:

  • Mainland: Department of Economic Development (DED)
  • Free Zone: Independent authority for your chosen zone (link provided for free zone selection)

Business Plan Development:

Create a comprehensive business plan outlining your restaurant’s vision, financial viability, brand strategy, and contingency plans. This plan will also involve costing to determine initial investment and ongoing operational needs.

License Acquisition:

Secure the necessary licenses for operation:

  • Trade License: Obtain a trade license from DED (mainland) or the relevant authority (free zone/tourism/commerce).
  • Food License: Acquire a food license from the Food Safety Department.

Food Safety Compliance

Ensure adherence to the food code, a comprehensive document outlining mandatory requirements for food establishments. This code safeguards food safety for residents and Dubai’s vast tourist population.

Types of Licenses

Commercial License: Issued by DED, this is the foundation for any business operation in Dubai.

  • Dubai Municipality Food Permit: Confirms your premises meet food safety standards. Inspectors will thoroughly examine kitchens and storage areas before issuance.
  • Liquor License (if applicable): Required for serving alcohol, with strict regulations governing procurement, storage, and serving times (e.g., not during Ramadan or prayer times). Restrictions also apply to who can purchase alcohol (over 21 with valid ID). Annual renewal is necessary.
  • Other Permits: Music permits, shisha permits, and Ministry of Health permits for restaurants exceeding 200 person capacity might be required.

Step-by-Step Process

  • Business Planning: Develop a comprehensive plan outlining your concept, menu, target audience, and financial projections.
  • Location Selection: Choose a suitable commercial location considering rent, customer access, and parking availability.
  • DED Trade License Application: Submit an application to DED (processing time: 14-30 days).
  • Permits and Approvals: Apply for all necessary permits from Dubai Municipality, civil defense, etc., and expect inspections.
  • Liquor License (if applicable): Undergo a detailed application process for a liquor license (if needed).
  • Final Inspections: Authorities will inspect your premises to ensure compliance with all rules and regulations.\
  • Open for Business! Once final approvals are obtained from all departments, you can officially open your doors. The typical timeframe from application to full approval is 2-4 months.

Key Requirements and Regulations

Dubai upholds strict guidelines to ensure high restaurant standards. Here are some key requirements:

  • Local Partner Ownership: UAE law mandates that 51% of any mainland business be owned by an Emirati national. Partnering with a local sponsor is necessary.
  • Minimum Capital Investment: The minimum capital requirement for a full-service restaurant can vary but is often around AED 500,000. Proof of sufficient funding is essential. (It’s advisable to check with DED for the latest information.)
  • Zoning and Fire Safety Rules: Your location must comply with civil defense fire and safety codes. Zoning laws prohibit restaurants in residential buildings.
  • Staff Visas: Once licensed, you can apply for work visas for your employees, with quotas allocated based on restaurant size and capacity.

Renewing Your License

Restaurant licenses from DED and other authorities require annual renewals. This may involve providing updated documents, paying renewal fees, and undergoing inspections before approval.


Getting a restaurant license in Dubai involves coordinating with various regulatory bodies and meeting strict criteria. The detailed process can take 2-4 months requiring substantial planning.

We have spelled out the crucial steps, licenses needed, regulations, requirements and more in this comprehensive guide. If you are planning a Dubai restaurant launch, this should provide a clear roadmap!

Let us know if you have any other questions.


Q1. How long does it take to get a restaurant license in Dubai?

It typically takes 2-4 months from starting the application to receiving your license. The process involves inspections, verifications, customizations etc. across different departments.

Q2. How much does a Dubai restaurant license cost?

The license fees vary based on the type and size of your restaurant. On average, you may need AED 300,000 to AED 500,000 to cover all costs including rent, equipment, license fees etc.

Q3. What are the rules around serving alcohol?

To obtain a liquor license, restaurants need dedicated storage areas for alcohol inventory. Alcohol can only be served to those above 21 with valid IDs. Numerous other rules apply around procuring, storing and serving.

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Pranav Modi

Mr. Pranav Modi, CA is supported by 12+ years of Consulting, Auditing and Accounting practice across diverse sectors.

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