A team of professionals gathered around a table, discussing the process of opening a restaurant business in Dubai.

How to Open a Restaurant Business in Dubai?

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Have you ever thought about opening your very own restaurant in Dubai? As one of the top global dining destinations, Dubai draws foodies and restaurant investors from all corners of the world.

With its multicultural population, booming tourism industry, and residents with high disposable incomes, Dubai offers exciting opportunities for F&B entrepreneurs. If you have a passion for hospitality and creative menu development, owning an eatery here can be extremely rewarding.

However, launching a successful restaurant in Dubai’s competitive landscape requires smart planning and hard work. You need to craft an unique concept, handle licensing wisely, market aggressively pre- and post-launch, and deliver wonderful cuisine and service.

This comprehensive guide covers the key steps first-time restaurateurs should follow to set up shop in Dubai:

Crafting a Unique and Appealing Restaurant Concept

The very first step is developing your restaurant’s concept. With so many dining options already available in Dubai, creating a unique concept is absolutely essential. Your eatery needs to stand out from the fierce competition.

Research Local Diner Demographics and Preferred Cuisines

  • Spend time researching your target audience and their needs in-depth. Figure out key demographics like ages, cultural backgrounds, income levels and dining preferences.
  • Look at population and tourism growth forecasts for areas within Dubai to assess future demand.
  • Study latest food trends both locally and globally that you can adapt. Surveys show that an increasing number of UAE diners prefer healthy, organic and innovative fusion cuisine options.

Identify Gaps in the Market

Brainstorm your Concept Details

  • Define the specifics like cuisine type, menu offerings, pricing, restaurant size and layout, decor ambiance etc.
  • Make sure every aspect aligns with your core concept and target audience.

Validate the Concept

  • Float your restaurant concept ideas past contacts in Dubai’s food industry, hospitality veterans, potential investors, or local acquaintances to get objective feedback.
  • Fine-tune anything that seems unclear or falls flat with your test group.

Understanding Dubai Restaurant Licensing Requirements

To legally open a restaurant in Dubai that serves food to paying customers, you must obtain a valid restaurant operating license. The Department of Economic Development (DED) issues licenses for venues in mainland Dubai, while free zone authorities handle licensing in special economic zones.

Key Factors Impacting License Type and Costs

The exact permit, processes, requirements and fees vary depending on:

  • Location – Mainland or free zone
  • Premises Features & Facilities – Commercial grade kitchen, dining hall capacity, outdoor seating etc.
  • Cuisine Type and Scope – Bakery, café, full-fledged restaurant etc.

Typical Dubai Restaurant License Costs

  • License fees to the DED or free zone authority
  • Premises lease registration fees
  • Consultancy charges (extremely useful for navigating bureaucracy)
  • Food safety training and certificates
  • Professional plan submissions

Finding the Right Restaurant Location and Layout

The part of Dubai you choose dictates everything from food trends to foot traffic, parking availability, competition levels, visibility, and lease rates or purchase costs.

Consider factors like proximity to hotels, tourist landmarks, high density residential areas, office districts, shopping malls etc. Look for locations with great visibility and accessibility.

Work with experienced restaurant architects and designers when planning your venue layout. You need a practical kitchen and storage set-up tailored for your cuisine and volume needs.

The guest seating areas should also perfectly suit your service style and decor ambiance. Design the space to be stylish yet smooth-flowing.

Building a Reliable Restaurant Operations Team

You need a passionate team as dedicated to your concept as you are to make it a success in Dubai’s competitive market.

Key Restaurant Leadership Roles

Ensure you hire the right specialists for every critical role:

  • Executive Chef – They’ll shape menus, food quality standards, inventory etc.
  • Restaurant Manager – Responsible for daily operations, customer service protocols and staff supervision.
  • Head Bartender – Creates cocktail menus and beverage programs (if serving alcohol).
  • Pastry Chef – Oversees desserts and baked goods (for certain concepts).

Front and Back of House Staff

Invest time and effort into recruiting and training your service staff like servers, line cooks and stewards. Define clear criteria like language abilities, service skills, experience levels etc.

Conduct extensive training on your concept, menu offerings, hospitality standards and service sequences. Finesse areas like order taking, food handling, complaint resolution etc. This builds confidence to handle all kinds of diners.

Spreading the Word Through Marketing and PR

You need to aggressively market your restaurant both pre- and post-launch in Dubai to build a strong customer base.

Pre-Launch Planning

Start digital marketing and PR activities 6-12 months before opening doors to the public. Offer exclusive previews and tastings for local food bloggers, influencers and media contacts.

Spread Post-Launch Excitement

Run promotions like discounts, contests, loyalty programs and event catering tie-ups in your first year. Participate in restaurant awards and get recognized. Stay hyper-visible on social media and via guest engagement.


Launching a popular dining destination in Dubai is no easy feat, but immensely satisfying. You need sufficient capital, thorough planning, marketing chops, and patience to succeed. Remember that delighting your guests with wonderful food, drink and hospitality should always be the top priority. Maintain your passion, creativity and high standards through all the inevitable ups and downs.


How much does it cost to open a mid-sized restaurant in Dubai?

Plan on an upfront investment of at least AED 1.5 million for a medium restaurant covering aspects like interiors, kitchen equipment, inventory and salaries.

What types of restaurants are most likely to thrive in Dubai?

Given Dubai’s globalized population and tourism footprint, eateries offering innovative cultural cuisine blends have great potential. Concepts that fill overlooked niches and deliver complete dining experiences tend to perform well here.

What are the average restaurant rental rates in Dubai?

Expect to pay AED 65-180 per square foot annually depending on the location. Tourist hotspots and newer developments command premium rates.

What are the key operating costs to run a Dubai restaurant?

The main expenses are rental, staff salaries, food ingredients, utility bills, licensing and regulation fees. Also factor in maintenance, supplies, wastage, and marketing.

How long does it take to open a restaurant in Dubai typically?

If renting a ready restaurant space, you can open within 2-3 months after securing licenses, equipment, staff etc. For a built out from scratch space, allow 6 months.

What return on investment can one expect from a Dubai restaurant?

With proper planning and execution, between 20-35% annual ROI is possible. Ensure you control operating expenses, prevent food wastage, and market aggressively.

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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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