How to Start a Cafe and Restaurant Business in Dubai with Meydan Free Zone?

Anisha Sagar

Anisha Sagar

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Dubai offers substantial potential for the café and restaurant business owing to a number of factors. Its multicultural population, primarily of expatriates from around the world, stimulates the demand for international cuisines and dining experiences as the city attracts many tourists yearly. Moreover, as a major business and financial hub, Dubai presents opportunities for cafes and restaurants to cater to the corporate sector by providing business-friendly environments. 

Entrepreneurs and restaurateurs can take advantage of the growing local food scene, which is supported by the government’s initiatives and incentives. In addition, Dubai’s high living standard and disposable income contribute to residents dining out more often. Restaurant demand is further boosted by the city hosting international events and exhibitions. With Meydan Free Zone, you can engage in various business activities related to the food and beverage service industry. The major activities are 5610.01 – Restaurants, 5610.02 – Cafeterias,  5610.03 – Fast-Food Restaurants, 5610.05 – Take-Out Eating Places,  5610.06 – Ice Cream Truck Vendors, 5610.07 – Mobile Food Carts, and 5610.08 – Food Preparation in Market Stalls.

5610 Restaurants, Cafeterias, and Fast-Food Restaurants

Apply for a business license under Restaurants and Mobile Food Service activities and choose business activities:

  • 5610.01 – Restaurants
  • 5610.02 – Cafeterias 
  • 5610.03 – Fast-Food Restaurants
  • 5610.05 – Take-Out Eating Places 
  • 5610.06 – Ice Cream Truck Vendors   
  • 5610.07 – Mobile Food Carts   
  • 5610.08 – Food Preparation in Market Stalls   

Your Restaurant and Cafeterias business license from Meydan Free Zone allows running restaurants, cafeterias, fast-food restaurants, pizza delivery, take-out eating places, ice cream truck vendor businesses, mobile food carts, and food preparation in market stalls. You can provide food services to customers, whether it’s providing seated service or self-service from a display of items. Your license also permits you to cater to customers who prefer to dine on the premises, take their meals to go, or even have them conveniently delivered. 

Additionally, your license extends to preparing and serving meals for immediate consumption, be it from motorized vehicles or nonmotorized carts. With the flexibility to operate from motorized vehicles or nonmotorized carts, you can explore creative food concepts, experiment with different menu items, and tailor your services to specific locations or target demographics.

Inclusions

Your Restaurant license from Meydan Free Zone allows you to operate restaurants, cafeterias, fast-food establishments, pizza delivery services, take-out eating places, ice cream truck vending, mobile food carts, and food preparation in market stalls. Moreover, your business license extends to restaurant and bar activities associated with transportation, provided they are conducted by separate units. 

Using motorized vehicles such as food trucks or mobile kitchens, you can bring your culinary offerings to different locations in Dubai, events, or even specific neighborhoods, reaching a broader customer base and growing your business. Furthermore, your license covers the utilization of nonmotorized carts, including those in recreational areas, outdoor events, or even within designated zones. You can use these carts to provide a compact and mobile solution for serving prepared meals on the go. 

Exclusion

The scope of your Restaurant and Cafeterias license does not include the operation of eating facilities through concession arrangements. Therefore, you are prohibited from providing food services under contractual agreements for a specified duration. Additionally, you are not permitted to manage food concessions at sports or similar venues. Furthermore, your license does not authorize you to act as a food service contractor (e.g., for transportation companies) or operate canteens for factories, offices, hospitals, or schools on a concession basis.

Third-Party Approval – Pre License

The restaurant license is regulated by and subject to approval from Dubai Municipality.  Before your restaurant or cafeteria license is issued,  it is necessary to obtain approval from the Food Control Department and the Department of Drainage and Irrigation. These approvals are required to ensure adherence to health and safety standards for food handling, preparation, and waste disposal. The Food Control Department assesses the establishment’s adherence to hygiene, food storage, and handling practices, whereas the Department of Drainage and Irrigation evaluates the waste management system to prevent environmental contamination. These approvals are essential in obtaining the licenses to operate a restaurant or cafeteria in Dubai.

To obtain approval from the Dubai Municipality’s Planning Department, your restaurant must have a minimum area of 750 square feet, while a cafeteria must have a minimum area of 500 square feet. These size requirements ensure the establishments have adequate space to accommodate customers, maintain proper hygiene standards, and facilitate smooth operations. Meeting these minimum area criteria is an essential consideration in the approval process.

You may also need the following permits depending on the nature of your activity.

  • Food Safety Certification
  • Permit for vehicles that will be used for transporting food products.
  • Additional permits for handling and serving non-halal items such as pork or alcohol
  • Halal Certification
  • Outdoor Seating Permit
  • Liquor License (if applicable)
  • Consignment Release Permit (if applicable – This permit is to release food consignment from Dubai ports.

You must apply for a NOC on foodstuff establishment trade license’ from the ‘Food Safety Department’ at Dubai Municipality. Additionally, you must acquire a proposed kitchen design and equipment details from a registered engineering office. These documents should be submitted in three copies to the Food Control Department.

Guidelines as Per Dubai Municipality  

While registering a restaurant business in Dubai mainland, entrepreneurs must follow specific guidelines set by the Dubai Municipality. 

  • The restaurant’s walls, floors, and ceiling should be fireproof, washable, and light-colored. Also, there should not be any cracks in the restaurant’s structure.
  • The restaurant must have enough ventilation and adequate lighting.
  • The restaurant must be more than 750 sqft, and the cafeteria must be more than 500 sqft to get approval from Dubai Municipality – Planning Dept.
  • The minimum area of the kitchen should be at least 300 sq. feet or 40 % of the total restaurant area, whichever is more extensive.
  • If the kitchen has a tandoor, in that case, the minimum kitchen area should be 380 sq. feet.
  • A separate storage area for frozen items.
  • A cold and hot water supply system should be installed
  • The restaurant or cafeteria must have a proper drainage system. 
  • The restaurant or cafeteria must have the pest control contract duly signed by the Pest Control company.
  • The restaurant smoke must not enter the adjacent building. A distance of 2 meters should be maintained between it and the nearest building.
  • Should have a separate storeroom to keep all the cleaning chemicals.

An applicant must meet all the above criteria in order to get approval for a restaurant or cafeteria.

ESR and UBO

Business activities 5610.01, 5610.02, 5610.03, 5610.05, 5610.06, 5610.07, and 5610.08 are exempt from the requirements of Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO) and Economic Substance Regulations (ESR). 

Ultimate Beneficial Ownership (UBO): UBO refers to the individuals who ultimately own or control a legal entity, such as a company or trust. 

Economic Substance Regulations (ESR): Economic Substance Regulations are laws enacted to ensure that companies conducting specific activities have a substantial economic presence in that jurisdiction. The ESR generally requires such companies to demonstrate that they have sufficient economic activity, such as employees, assets, and operations, in their registered jurisdiction.

AML  

Business activities 5610.01, 5610.02, 5610.03, 5610.05, 5610.06, 5610.07, and 5610.08, which primarily include Restaurants and Mobile Food Service activities, are exempt from Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations. This is because AML regulations are primarily focused on financial institutions and businesses involved in financial transactions. Since Restaurant and Cafe businesses typically do not engage in such transactions, they are not subject to AML regulations specifically designed to prevent illegal activities like money laundering and terrorist financing.

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