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A welcoming landscape for fresh concepts, conducive environment for doing business, and boundless growth opportunities has led to Dubai witnessing a surge in the number of restaurant and café openings across the emirate.

UAE’s largest and most trusted business setup consultancy, Creative Zone have witnessed a huge influx of entrepreneurs wanting to set up a restaurant or café business within the region in the first quarter of 2021.

Experts noted that the restaurants and cafés sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the GCC region, especially in Dubai, which is home to people from across the world. In addition, the city has a flourishing tourism sector and modern lifestyle that supports restaurants and cafés of all kinds.

Having said that, setting up a restaurant or café comes with a multitude of procedures, paper-work, and permits as the UAE follows strict protocols to ensure food safety and quality.

Difference between a Cafe and a Restaurant

The license for a café is not the same as that of a restaurant. If the food is prepared outside, in a cloud kitchen or at home, it is categorised as a café and not a restaurant, for example, Starbucks where coffee, tea and other hot beverages as well as juices, cookies, sandwiches, cakes, candy, and ice cream are served without any preparation.

On the other hand, a restaurant has to have a kitchen, where raw food items are cooked and served. If the restaurants are to be opened 24/7, they need to apply for a separate permit. Similarly, there are different authorisations for delivery, takeaways, discount offers, and happy hours.

Below is a summarized version of the basic steps to open a restaurant.

Step 1: Select a jurisdiction

Dubai Mainland is very popular with restaurants as space is readily available and is more economical. There are several attractive packages available for Free Zones as well. However, they can operate only within that Free Zone.

Step 2 Submit the business plan

No matter where you decide to open a restaurant, you will need to create and submit a business plan that should include a vision for the business, financial viability, brand management, and contingency plans.

Step 3: Get Food & Trading licenses

Department of Food and Safety issues the food license, and the Department of Economic Development (DED), or the chosen Free Zone, provides the trade license. One can start by designating a legal status for the enterprise, give it a name and submit it to DED for initial approval, prepare the relevant documents, lease a corporate office, and submit a further application to the DED for the final approval.

Food Trucks

There are two types of food trucks: mobile and static. An individual can open a food truck without a kitchen inside, motor, office or any other attachment and simply sell the food. It will still be considered a restaurant, but the restaurant won't have a location. And the permit can be issued in two ways, depending on its site. If the truck is in a public place, RTA will give the permission, which will act as the lease agreement required for the license, and if the car is located in a private area, then the particular entity can issue a lease agreement (similarly like to office renting).

Then comes the Dubai municipality, which is a key stage. Dubai Municipality will inspect the car for all safety hazards and other requirements. If the vehicle uses gas stoves to cook the food, Civil Defense will carry out the inspection.

How much does it cost to start a food truck business in Dubai?

The exact amount will depend on factors like the location, style of food served, and the truck's layout and style. It can cost anywhere between AED 1,00,000 to AED 2,00,000. By no means a small amount, but certainly far less than launching a traditional restaurant. While startup costs may be a high, ROI generally comes quickly. Many food truck owners report breaking even within six months and turning a healthy profit within eight months.

Why now is the time to start your food truck business in Dubai

Dubai's food trucks have been fast gaining popularity over the last three to four years, and we are now at the point when the concept is proven, and demand is outweighing supply. Though the number of food trucks have risen further over the last year, there's almost certainly still a section of the market that isn't being adequately served, and your business could be the one that plugs the gap. Your food truck can be whatever you want it to be. Set up a Mongolian BBQ, sell Polish sandwiches or Hungarian goulash, start a Swedish Fika stall, or cook up good old fashioned burger and fries – the possibilities are almost endless.

Getting your food truck license in Dubai

When it comes to F&B, the number of permits and licenses can make the setup process relatively complex, which is why going to company formation specialists can make the setup procedure stress-free and comfortable. Creative Zone has helped setup over 44,000 companies in the UAE and will take care of the entire process, including obtaining the license, applying for permits, visas, and opening a corporate bank account.

To get in touch with one of Creative Zone’s advisors, write to setup@creativezone.ae