Small is cute and simple is beautiful! Unlike a large, full-fledged restaurant, a smallish cafeteria in Dubai with limited options is usually full. Thanks to the expats driven by hustle culture! And the catch here is opening a cafeteria in Dubai is a great idea. 

In Dubai, you’ll hardly find a street without a tiny cafeteria or café. Thanks to about 90% expat population from about 200 nationalities, the majority of which are working professionals. Decked up with tiny fairy lights, dapper seats and tables, green elements and only necessary things, cafeterias today are beyond a stop-and-go spot and a popular choice amongst people from every age or income group for their own reasons. Availability of a variety of quick bites & drinks, airy ambiance, reasonable prices of the food and beverage items and prompt service are some of the primary reasons why small cafeterias in Dubai are always crowded. Without a doubt, starting a cafeteria or small restaurant in Dubai is a profitable idea! And the joy of joys is – You don’t have to worry about footfalls, even when there are 10 more food joints on your street. Because every man and his dog loves food, and the eyes and noses of food lovers are always in search of new places to try something unique. Plus, you may easily scale up your restaurant business by offering a home delivery service and with little promotional efforts. When it comes to restaurants and cafés, from customers’ perspective, the more, the better! If you’re looking to open a small cafeteria in one of the bustling streets of Dubai, possibly you might be wondering how to start it, how to obtain a cafeteria licence, and how much the entire setup will cost you initially. Fret not, this page will answer all your doubts regarding the cafeteria business setup in Dubai. 

How to Open a Cafeteria in Dubai? 

Without a doubt, you can start a cafeteria and apply for the relevant licences and permits in your own steam, however, you won’t like to do the spadework involved in the process especially collecting approvals and preparing required documents. Therefore, it is advisable to engage one of the most experienced business formation consultants in Dubai, such as Adam Global.  

Things to know before starting a cafeteria in Dubai, UAE

Relevant Licences/Permits 

To incept a cafeteria business in Dubai, you are required to acquire two separate licences. The first one is a cafeteria licence which is issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) or a free zone authority) depending on your choice of jurisdiction and the second one is a food licence which can be applied at the Dubai Municipality Food Safety Department only after getting your cafeteria plans approved by the food control department in Dubai. The cafeteria plan must include all entrances and exits, food processing areas, storage areas, windows and ventilation, and all the other equipment. As part of your licence application, you must present a copy of your cafeteria licence in the UAE along with a floor plan and other documents. 

Food Code

This is worth noting that for the continued validity of your cafeteria licence in Dubai, you must comply with the ‘Food Code’, designed to assist the Person-In-Charge (PICs) at food establishments to understand their obligations and to carry out operations as per the requirement. You must submit the following documents to get the Food Clearance from DM. 

  • Trade licence copy or primary approval from the relevant authority in charge of licence issuance 
  • The interior design layout or a blueprint of your restaurant by registered DM Interior Designer 

Restaurant Types 

Below are the common types of restaurant licence in Dubai according to the Dubai Economic Department: 

  • Restaurant and Coffee Shops 
  • Floating Restaurant 
  • Restaurant and Mini Store 
  • Multi Restaurants Center 

Other Food-related Permits in Dubai, UAE

Only authorised users (primary Person-in-Charge of Food establishments and Technical Experts) can apply for food permits and approvals through the FoodWatch platform of DM. Permit(s)-approval(s) will be withdrawn without prior notice if there is any depreciation in the Food Inspection Grade or if there are any critical food safety or regulatory violations. Here are the permits/approvals you may request for: 

  • Food Consignment Release Licence 
  • Pork Permit for handling and serving food products containing pork 
  • Vehicle Permit for transporting food products 
  • Food Activity at Events 
  • Food Trucks 
  • Kiosk Permit 
  • Vending Machine 
  • Non-Halal Food Activity 
  • Food Promotion Permit 
  • Temporary Permit for Changes Related to Food Label/Packages 
  • School Supply Permit 
  • Approval of Food and Nutrition Safety Internal Trainer 
  • Approval of Consultancy/Training Companies 
  • Common Kitchen in Labour Accommodation 
  • Trader (Licenced Home Businesses
  • Approval of Water Tank Cleaning Companies 
  • Approval of seafood industries for exporting to EU countries 

Dubai Cafeteria Licence Application Process

Below mentioned are the main steps to obtain the cafeteria licence in Dubai: 

  • First and foremost, decide between mainland or free zone jurisdiction 
  • Find out and lease a suitable location for your cafeteria 
  • Get your cafeteria name approved 
  • Obtain initial approval 
  • Finalise the legal form of the company 
  • Draft and sign the Memorandum of Association (MoA) and commercial lease agreement with your partners 
  • Register your cafeteria business under the chosen jurisdiction 
  • Prepare and submit necessary documents to the DED (Department of Economic Development) along with the trade licence application to apply for the cafeteria business licence with the DED 
  • Pay the application fee and collect the trade licence 
  • Obtain a food licence from the Dubai Municipality Food and Safety Department 
  • Apply for No-Objection Certificate (NOC) 

Required documents to start a cafeteria business in Dubai 

Following are the set of documents required to open a cafeteria in Dubai: 

The Construction Plan of the Cafeteria must outline the details about: 

  • Space for food processing, cooking, and storage 
  • Sanitary places 
  • All the windows and the ventilation system 
  • The equipment location where the food is processed 
  • Location of washing machines, if any. 
  • All the entry and exit of the passages 

To receive initial approval, submit: 

  • Three proposed names for the coffee shop as per the UAE trade name guidelines 
  • Passport copies of all the shareholders 
  • Local sponsor documents 
  • Activity details 

To obtain the approval of a Food Licence from DM, you must submit: 

  • The approval certificate from the authority in charge (mainland/freezone
  • The layout of the building/space/shop 
  • Approval Certificate from the planning department (if the cafeteria is being setup outside a shopping centre) 

Paperwork to apply for the Trade Licence in Dubai for cafeteria business includes: 

  • Properly filled in the trade licence application, duly signed by all the business partners and managers 
  • Duly prepared MOA, signed by all the shareholders 
  • Cafeteria name registration and approval letter 
  • Passport copies of the business managers and employees 

Location Requirements for a Small Cafeteria in Dubai 

It is important to meet the following location conditions to start a small cafeteria in Dubai: 

  • The selected cafeteria location must be appropriate, so the customers don’t face any troubles 
  • Must have adequate space to accommodate the equipment and prepare the food 
  • There must be particular space for the disposal of dirt and a facility of smoke emission 
  • Washrooms must be separated, away from the kitchen on the opposite side 
  • The walls, floors, and roofs must be cleaned/washed regularly 
  • The entire area must be fire-insulated 
  • It must contain a separate washbasin for cleaning utensils and vegetables, and a separate one for the meat (in the case of a non-vegetarian cafeteria) 

Cost of opening a cafeteria in Dubai 

Opening even a small cafeteria in Dubai is an expensive affair but can be cost-effective if you keep a strict check on the factors influencing the overall cost of a cafeteria setup in Dubai. You must be ready to cough up at least AED 120,000 if you want to keep it low-key. The professional licence fee itself is about AED 10,310 and the cost of applying for the same can reach up to AED 28,000. On the contrary, if you want everything all wool and a yard wide then remember you need to fork out more as they say, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too!”. Apparently, the cost of opening a chic cafeteria in Dubai can easily shoot up to AED 170,000+ in a heartbeat if you want the whole nine yards in your dream cafeteria. This includes the major cost elements involved in the cafeteria establishment such as the café’s rental, interior decor, and staff visas (plus, workers’ accommodation). The more butter you add, the tastier the food gets (with this, I know I got a bit carried away)! 

Meet Cafeteria Business Formation Experts in Dubai @ Adam Global 

We usually see cafeterias or coffee shops multiply within a few years of journey. Imagine the scope of this business in the tourist and expat-friendly Dubai! Your decision to start a small cafeteria in Dubai is a great idea. However, the process can be daunting, considering the red tape and paperwork involved every step of the way to your final destination. However, outsourcing the task to one of the best business consultants in Dubai can make the process a whole lot easier. Click here to book an appointment with one of our seasoned Dubai business advisors for a free consultancy.