How To Open A Casual Dining Restaurant In The UAE

Open a casual dining restaurant UAE

The restaurant industry is booming worldwide. There were a few glitches along the way, given the pandemic, but with takeaway and delivery services, the appetite for eating out is at an all-time high! Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah have gained great commercial importance in the past few years. The UAE is at par with liberal trade practices globally. The cosmopolitan culture and the wealth of the people in the UAE have also contributed to the growth of the foodservice sector. The restaurant sector holds vast potential in the UAE. As per a CAGR report, it is estimated that the restaurant sector will grow at a rate of 5.22%. Keeping this in mind, it can be said that it will be very beneficial to open a casual dining restaurant in the UAE.

Steps To Open A Casual Dining Restaurant In The UAE

Based on the report by Mordor Intelligence, about 32% of people in the UAE are willing to expend AED 100-300 while eating outside, and about 39% are eager to spend AED 50-100. 

The restaurant market is booming with every passing day, given the high purchasing power capacity of the UAE residents. This is a great time to invest in and open a casual dining restaurant. Every occasion, be it with friends or family, now calls for a visit to casual dining outlets. 

And so, we have compiled this article to give you a headstart on how to open a casual dining restaurant in the UAE.

1. Get Your Restaurant License On Priority 

All the niches such as – restaurants, food factories, bakeries, etc., belong to different categories of food businesses. The food code is strictly applicable to any food business establishment in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and the UAE.

If you want to open a casual dining restaurant in the UAE, you will need to get a trade license from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and a Food License from the Food Safety Department in Dubai.  To open a casual dining restaurant in Dubai or any other city in the UAE, you should apply for a general trading license as well. Multiple trading activities, in a similar or a different industry, are covered in this general trade license. 

You can obtain a trade license for your restaurant in the UAE through 6 simple steps – 

  • Choose the name of your trade. It should be a suitable name for your restaurant business 
  • Mention the requisite business activity for opening a restaurant 
  • Fill an application form and get external approvals 
  • Gather all the necessary documents 
  • Choose a location 
  • Submit application and pay the fees

A Dubai general trading license fee can cost around AED 30,000 to AED 40,000 and vary upon several factors. It can also be used as a legal holding structure within the UAE and other licensing authorities.

2. Have A Concrete Restaurant Plan Before You Begin

A food business plan is critical when you are looking to start a casual dining restaurant, especially in the UAE.  But what does a good restaurant plan contain? 

A stellar restaurant plan will elaborate on the structural content such as – 

  • Location for your casual restaurant in the UAE
  • Marketing and operational expenses to run the restaurant considering the cost of –
    • Procuring a license
    • Renting or buying a new property for the restaurant space
    • Setting up the restaurant with furniture and other accessories
    • Insurance & working capital
    • Software for day-to-day operations
    • Food delivery setup (if it is something that you’re considering for your restaurant)
  • Deciding on the kind of menu that you want for your casual dining restaurant 

Given the COVID pandemic, it is always wise to include new models into your existing business plan to open a casual restaurant that would help scale the business and adapt to ever-evolving market trends in the restaurant business. 

Open a casual dining restaurant UAE

3. An Apt Location to Open A Casual Dining Restaurant 

The location of your restaurant will play the most important role in building its credibility and determining whether your restaurant will work its magic on the locals and the tourists alike. 

To finalize a location, it is imperative that you indulge in some active research on the place, its demographics, and, most notably, to see if the area you’re considering has enough footfall. 

An apt location to open a casual restaurant will make or break your restaurant business. Here are some of the factors that you need to consider while deciding the location – 

  • Identifying your target audience
  • Setting up your restaurant where the footfall of your desired target audience is already high. 
  • Checking accessibility and commute of your restaurant area to ensure returning customers 
  • Cost factors such as rent and shipping costs need to be planned. A location where the rent is affordable and close to your desired suppliers will ease out a lot of unplanned expenses.

4. The Right Technology Will Save Your Restaurant 

In the pre-pandemic world, not investing in technology for your restaurant business would be a risky but still an obscure option. 

But the massive digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic has made technology an integral part of starting your restaurant business. Firstly, it is essential to invest in a good POS system customized for starting a casual dining restaurant in the UAE. This will make things easy for you in the future. 

The right technology will help you keep an eye on your daily operations in your business. A good POS system would help you focus on tasks like – 

  • One of the most critical activities of any restaurant business is billing. An efficient POS system will remove the room for any error and perform your billing operations smoothly. It will also take into account the customer’s mode of payment and develop offers if applicable. 
  • Stock and Inventory Management is crucial to running a restaurant smoothly. Using a POS, you can check the availability of raw materials and manage your capital wisely. 
  • With a POS system, you can get real-time and accurate reports and quickly analyze them on the go. This will reduce the need for you to be present everywhere all the time and yet look over your business effectively. 
  • The right technology will help you effectively market your restaurant and reach out to your customers using an omnichannel approach, like emails, SMS, etc. 

5. Hiring Right For Your Casual Dining Restaurant 

Running a restaurant has so much more to it than cooking and serving a delectable menu. It is also about offering exceptional service to your customers with the help of first-class hospitality staff.  

To build a well-performing restaurant team, you need to determine which roles you need to hire for. A casual dining restaurant will need – 

  • A manager
  • Shift managers
  • Sous chef
  • Prep cooks
  • Servers
  • Bartenders 
  • Kitchen staff
  • Dishwashers 

Now, depending on the size of your restaurant, you might need to increase the number of people you are hiring for a particular role. Apart from deciding on which roles to fill, you will also need to outline the responsibilities and requirements for each person that you hire in their specific roles.

Efficiency is key to hiring the best restaurant employees. By carefully determining what you’re looking for, sourcing from the right places, and training your staff extensively, you will succeed in hiring first-class employees for your new casual dining restaurant in the UAE. 

Starting a food business in the UAE has its own set of challenges. But following the steps above will help you fulfil your dream of opening a casual dining restaurant in the UAE.

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Daniel McCarthy is a seasoned restaurant consultant and serves as the Communication Manager at Restroworks, a prominent F&B SaaS company. Drawing from his vast knowledge of leveraging innovative technological solutions, Daniel excels at enhancing restaurant operations and revenue, thereby contributing to the ongoing transformation of the industry.


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