Have You Got What It takes To Start A Catering Business In The UAE?

Posted by Restaurant Secrets Inc

Have you got what it takes to start a catering business in the uae

Do you aspire to setting up a catering business in the UAE? Providing fresh meals to any number of end users from schools and hospitals, airlines and shops to parties and events?

It’s not an easy market to break into, considering the sheer number of small restaurants in the UAE that already cater to the needs of this market but help is on it’s way with the support we’ve provided below:

Identify Your Target

Determining your target market is essential so let this be a key consideration in formulating your business plan.


You’ll need to secure a commercial license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) and before that, you’ll need to decide on the structure of your proposed business. Sole proprietorships are only possible for UAE or GCC nationals. Expatriates can set up a limited liability company, with an Emirati sponsor who owns 51% of the business, a joint venture or a free zone entity.

Whilst free zones have become increasingly popular over recent years, ensuring you retain 100% ownership of the business, with a catering company, this would restrict business to within that particular free zone so deciding which market works best for you becomes even more centre stage.

Bear in mind also, that there are in fact, few options for launching a catering business from a free zone, as many industry-specific zones require a branch on the mainland.
 The Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (JAFZA), for example, classifies catering under a service license and in order to obtain this, you need to have a parent company and open as a branch. Other free zones operate differently so you’re best researching each individual option. A particular popular free zone option of late is Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), where catering doesn’t fall under a restricted business activity but you do need to go through a pre-approval process which takes seven to 10 working days.


The cost of setting up a catering firm will depend on the company structure and set up you decide on.

You’ll need to factor in for starters, the costs of your licensing fee, rental of premises, visas and capital requirements for kitchen fit-out.


Again, the premises type and size will depend on the company structure and set up you decide on.

Be careful when dealing with contractors and ensure that you cover all aspects of the contract to save headaches later on. The Dubai Municipality needs to grant approval for any kitchen space, which requires the submission of detailed kitchen design / layout plans with finishing and equipment details.

Municipality guidelines are extensive and dictate the materials used for walls, floors and ceilings, the lighting and ventilation, storage of chilled, frozen and dried foods, food prep areas etc. so be sure to study all requirements carefully before expensive mistakes are made or delays incurred.

Approvals And Permits

Bear in mind the extensive regulations in place.

Even if setting up in a free-zone, you still need to adhere to free zone regulations as well as municipality-issued rules.

The food control department has to grant a permit allowing you to run a food stuff-related establishment, which requires documentation such as trade license copies, employee health cards, health and safety certifications, lab test reports and a letter of no objection.

Don’t let all this deter you. This is a growing industry, in a city that has huge demand for catering suppliers. Rather, just ensure that you put the time at the outset into planning and preparing… which in turn, will save you a lot of time, down the line!

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