How to start a restaurant in Abu Dhabi

Every year, millions of people visit Abu Dhabi, be it for business or pleasure, and many take advantage of the burgeoning restaurant culture here. With Abu Dhabi home to so many people from around the world, there is no shortage of types of restaurants available, from delicious local cuisine to international favourites such as Indian and Italian. With tourism and business both growing again post-pandemic, there is no better time to establish a restaurant business in Abu Dhabi.
In this article, we will explore the following points to help you on your way to setting up a restaurant business in Abu Dhabi:

  • Benefits of starting a restaurant in Abu Dhabi
  • Steps to start a restaurant in Abu Dhabi
  • Costs to open a restaurant in Abu Dhabi
  • Working with Setup in Abu Dhabi

Benefits of starting a restaurant in Abu Dhabi

There are plenty of reasons to choose Abu Dhabi as the location for your restaurant business. The local economy is growing quickly – and is set to continue to grow in the coming years. It is also a hub for tourism, especially as the world continues to unlock as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and people can travel more easily again. There is also a thriving foodie culture in Abu Dhabi, with the sector expanding quickly again as people look to go out and enjoy the outside world.

Steps to start a restaurant in Abu Dhabi

There are numerous steps to starting a restaurant business in Abu Dhabi, but here are some of the major ones that entrepreneurs need to consider.

Step 1: Choose a company name: One of the first things to do is to name your restaurant business. The rules in Abu Dhabi are fairly relaxed, but there are some things to be aware of. Firstly, the name cannot be the same as any other existing business in Abu Dhabi. Secondly, there can be no profanity or blasphemy in the name. Finally, if you plan to use your name in the business, it must be your full name – first name and surname – as no initials are allowed.

Step 2: Pick a location: Where you locate your restaurant is crucial to the success of it – even if the best food is served, it will suffer if it is in the wrong place. Tourist areas are prime places to locate, due to the high level of footfall. Shopping malls are also great places to locate for the same reason. Another consideration is whether to base the business in one of the free zones in Abu Dhabi. There are numerous benefits of setting up in a free zone, including no need to have a shareholder who is a UAE national, exemption from taxation and logistical support. On the downside, business activities are restricted to that particular zone.

Step 3: Complete the application: Before you look to obtain the various licenses that you need to operate a restaurant business in Abu Dhabi, there are various pieces of admin that need to be completed. For instance, you must outline your business activities – basically whether you will be operating a restaurant, café or other related business. This should also include what sort of food will be sold, and whether you plan for the business to be an eat-in restaurant, take-away or one that delivers to customers. These details are important to include because if they are omitted, it can delay the license application process.

Step 4: Obtain your trade license: Anyone wanting to establish a food business of any kind in Abu Dhabi needs to obtain the correct license before they can begin trading. Food licenses must be applied for from the Food & Safety Department, while you need to go to the Department of Economic Development & Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing to get your trade license. It should also be noted there are various other special licenses that may be required, depending on how you run your restaurant business.

For example, if you want to serve alcohol, you will need a liquor permit or if you make deliveries, you need a permit for that too. There are various others available. It is also worth noting that you should not carry out any activities that are not included on your license(s) – the authorities are quite strict on this.

Step 5: Complete the visa processes: Another important step is completing the visa process required to live and work in Abu Dhabi. To make an application, the relevant immigration department should be contacted, although if you are setting up your restaurant business in a free zone, the residence visa application forms are part of that process.

Step 6: Open a bank account: Opening a bank account is another important step and anyone with a UAE-registered business can apply for a business account. To apply for a business account, a variety of documents will be needed, including a utility bill, your CV, personal bank statements from the previous six months and a comprehensive business plan. Banks in the UAE also have their own eligibility criteria for opening a business bank account, but it typically includes a requirement to keep a minimum balance in the account. Some also stipulate that your business holds a savings or current account with the bank as well.

This shows that there are many steps required to open a restaurant business in Abu Dhabi. Working with specialist consultants such as Setup in Abu Dhabi can help entrepreneurs navigate this process as quickly and smoothly as possible. For more information, please contact us.

Costs to open a restaurant in Abu Dhabi

The cost to open a restaurant in Abu Dhabi starts at AED 20,000, but this total can vary and is dependent on many factors, such as visa requirements, permits and restaurant location.
Other costs that need to be considered include rent on premises, staff recruitment and training, visas, buying equipment such as cookers and restaurant management systems, insurance, fire safety test certificates and stock, among many others.

For more information on the costs involved, and to get a personalised quote, please contact Setup in Abu Dhabi.

Working with Setup in Abu Dhabi

As outlined above in this article, Abu Dhabi is an excellent place to set up a restaurant business, with a wide potential customer base, great infrastructure and access to support if needed.

However, setting up a restaurant in Abu Dhabi isn’t straightforward and the process can have complexities that entrepreneurs – domestic and international – might not realise, especially if they don’t have in-depth knowledge of local laws. However, by working with consultants like Setup in Abu Dhabi to set up your restaurant business, you can ensure that the process is handled as smoothly and quickly as possible.

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