Starting a food business in the UAE is super exciting, but there’s a bunch of important paperwork to do before you can really get going. It’s not just about getting a food license – you actually should know about different licenses before you can start selling your food products. Getting knowledge of each of these licenses is important so that you can know which one to choose for your type of food business.
Nevertheless, these licenses and permits involve doing a bunch of documentation and being patient, but it’s really important to do it right. To help you out and make sure everything is legal, we made a list of best cost-effective licenses for food businesses in UAE. Let’s take a look!
Table of Contents
Types of Licenses for Food Businesses in the UAE
The following are the most common types of licenses that food business owners should know about in the UAE:
To start any food business in Dubai, the initial and crucial permit to obtain is the trade license. This license is issued by the Department of Economic Development (DED) and allows you to participate in commercial activities including those related to the food industry. It is the most common license for businesses, featuring a simple application and approval process.
In addition to the trade license, specific licenses from the Dubai Municipality are essential for food businesses. These licenses come with regulations related to various aspects of the products, including
- Canning and packaging of food products
- Net weight of the product
- Labeling requirements for food products
- Expiry date or best-before information
- Barcodes on products
- Detailed lists of ingredients in the products
- The company’s name which is a mandatory inclusion on the package
- Storage and usage instructions
Food and Safety License
The Food and Safety License is crucial for engaging in business activities related to edible products in the UAE. This license is issued by the Food and Safety Department (FSD) of the Dubai Municipality. Acquiring this license is a more difficult process due to the close association of food with health and safety concerns. But before getting the Food license, you are required to get your trade license.
There are also other specific licenses or permits tailored for particular activities, such as:
- Liquor licenses
- Pork permits to serve and handle pork products
- Vehicle permits for transporting food items
- Food consignment release licenses
- Ramadan permits
General Trading Licenses or Trader (Licensed Home-Food Business)
If you are someone who wants to start a home-based food business in the UAE, they need to get a trader or general trading license. A home food license can only be obtained by proprietors of authorized home-based businesses in Dubai that serve traditional, light, and sweet dishes. You will want separate types of licenses if you intend to sell other kinds of food.
Register of FoodWatch
To get a home food license in Dubai, you must first register as a Trader on FoodWatch. You can run your food business and list your food products on this online platform.
After registering, you must confirm that your company satisfies the prerequisites for compliance and facilities. This includes obtaining a valid license from the DED, which is exclusive to home-based businesses in Dubai.
To comply with regulations, your food items must be listed on FoodWatch. Additionally, ensure you have proper, licensed facilities for safe sourcing, transportation, storage, preparation, and display of food, aligning with the Dubai Food Code. This involves having the necessary facilities and equipment to meet health and safety standards.
Provide your name and contact details, along with an inspection report from the DM Inspection section. If you’re overseeing a food event or managing supplies from a home-based business, obtaining prior approval from the DM Food Permit section is essential. Following these steps ensures adherence to standards and the legal operation of your food-related business in Dubai. The permit is valid for one year, and renewal is required thereafter.
Food Manufacturing License
This license is for those who want to start their food manufacturing business in the UAE. Starting a business like this one in the UAE is surely lucrative and will only grow with the passage of time. The incorporation of a Dubai food manufacturing company is done by complying with the Food Code in the Emirates. The Food Code regulates food manufacturing companies in the UAE.
In order to be eligible for a trade license for the production of food, your business needs to have either bought or rented physical premises. Additionally, your business needs to hire at least 10 people and have a minimum of AED 250,000 in startup capital.
You need to get initial approval before you can apply for the license.
These are the required documents to get a food manufacturing business license in Dubai, UAE:
- A comprehensive business plan
- Notarized (MOA) Memorandum of Association
- A completed manufacturing trade license application form
- Lease agreement (tenancy contract)
- Copies of passports of all directors or shareholders
Submit the necessary paperwork to the Department of Economic Development (DED) and pay the required fee to issue the industrial or food manufacturing license.
A restaurant license is for food-related establishments like a typical restaurant that mainly serves food. A restaurant is a traditional establishment serving meals and drinks. It is an ideal venture for those passionate about cooking and desiring to offer a sit-down dining experience.
Depending on your budget and target audience, you can open either a casual or fine dining restaurant, showcasing your culinary skills and creating a memorable tasty experience for customers.
To open a restaurant in Dubai, it’s essential to adhere to the Food Code established by the Food Control Department of Dubai Municipality (DM). This initiative ensures the safe production and distribution of food, aiming to set and uphold food safety standards within the food industry. Following the guidelines outlined in the Food Code is crucial for maintaining a commitment to food safety practices in the process of setting up and operating a restaurant in Dubai.
Types of Restaurant Licenses in Dubai, UAE
Before getting a license, you should learn about the available licenses. You can get one of the following restaurant licenses in Dubai:
Floating Restaurant License
If you’re planning a coffee shop or restaurant for tourist activities, consider obtaining a floating restaurant license. As the name suggests, this license is designed for dining setups on yachts, ships, and boats. Legally, you can serve food and beverages to tourists during entertainment trips or when the yacht is anchored.
Restaurant and Coffee Shop License
For those aiming to open a substantial coffee shop or restaurant in Dubai, securing a restaurant and coffee shop license is essential. This license permits the establishment of a restaurant with a well-equipped kitchen and seating for cooking and serving food. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating options, allowing you to serve various liquid refreshments to quickly rejuvenate your customers.
Mini Store and Restaurant License
With this commercial license, you can legally operate your mini restaurant or coffee shop. It allows for cooking and serving food, including snacks, in an indoor sitting area. Beyond food preparation, this license grants you the flexibility to sell consumer goods such as newspapers, fresh canned and preserved food, bakery items, beverages, dairy products, and more.
Required Documents for a Restaurant License in Dubai
Once you have obtained your trade license, it is essential to secure approval for the construction plan of your food business. Here are the documents that you need for a restaurant license:
- Copy of trade license
- Proof of payment of the required fees
- Copy of the Emirates ID and passport of the business partners or owner
- Detailed layout and floor plan of the restaurant including blueprint of the restaurant
- Passport-size photograph of the business partners or owner
- Certificate of conformity for kitchen equipment
- Dubai Civil Defense approval for the restaurant premises
- Tenancy contract or proof of ownership for the restaurant location
- Hygiene and health certificate for the restaurant premises
- Menu of the restaurant with prices mentioned
- NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the Dubai Municipality
- Food and Safety license from the Dubai Municipality
- Any additional documents or permits as required by the Dubai Municipality or other authorities.
Cafe license is a professional license that is required for operating cafes. It comes under the activity group ”restaurants and coffee shops”.
Cafes are smaller food-related establishments that offer light meals, coffee, tea, and snacks. These cozy places provide a relaxed atmosphere with comfy seating and commonly offer free Wi-Fi. Opening a cafe can be a budget-friendly choice, offering a space for customers to relax while enjoying various drinks and snacks.
If you want to open a cafeteria in Dubai, you must first get a cafeteria license from the Dubai Economic Department. It’s a necessary food license, and without it, your business could face legal issues.
Initial approval from the DED is required to get the cafeteria license. Before contacting the DED for initial approval, make sure you have the following:
- Three proposed names for your cafeteria
- Passport copies of all shareholders
- Documents of the local sponsor
- Details about the cafeteria’s planned activities
Process to Get the License
To get the professional license:
- Apply for the name reservation and get initial approval of your chosen business activity from DED.
- Choose a local sponsor who can also be a silent partner. Prepare the necessary company documents and agreements with the local sponsor. Officially sign the agreement at a notary public court.
- If you own the cafeteria premises, obtain approval from the Food and Safety Authority of Dubai Municipality. Adhere to the construction requirements set by the Food and Safety Department.
- If you’re renting the cafeteria space, find a suitable location and sign a tenancy contract with the owner.
- Pay the license fees for the service
- Once Dubai Municipality’s requirements are met, they issue an approval certificate.
- Submit all signed and attested documents to the Department of Economic Development (DED) to obtain the cafeteria’s trade license.
Requirements for the License
To secure approval for a Cafeteria License, consider the following requirements:
- Adequate space for food processing and storage.
- Sanitary facilities, including washrooms.
- Properly positioned windows and a ventilation system.
- Clearly defined locations for kitchen equipment, entry and exit passages, and cleaning equipment.
You also need to get a food license from the Food and Safety Department for your cafe. This checklist is crucial for obtaining a food license from the Food and Safety Department.
- First issued approval from the Department of Economic Development (DED).
- Layout details of the cafeteria and/or premises.
- If the cafeteria is outside a shopping center, approval from the Planning Department is also required.
Food Truck License
A food truck business requires this license. A food truck is a mobile food business that lets you move around and serve food. If you want flexibility and the ability to go to different places, a food truck is a great option. It’s perfect for markets, events, exhibitions, and festivals.
Food trucks usually have a small menu with specific dishes, appealing to people who love trying new food. These movable kitchens are popular at various locations, offering an amazing culinary experience for foodies who are always on the move.
The new generation of Dubai loves the concept of food trucks. If you’re drawn to the idea of running a food truck alongside your restaurant in Dubai, obtaining the necessary license is essential. The Department of Economic Development (DED) is the authority that issues this license, but there are specific guidelines to follow.
Before diving into your food truck venture in Dubai, it’s crucial to secure pre-approvals from Dubai Municipality, the Road Transport Authority (RTA), and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). These preliminary steps ensure mobile food vendors meet the requirements and regulations set by various authorities, paving the way for the smooth operation of their food truck business.
Pre-Approval for Food Truck License
Boost the credibility and trustworthiness of your brand by obtaining HACCP approval, ensuring the safety of both your central kitchen and food truck. Before securing your food truck license, it’s essential to submit the HACCP certificates to the government authority.
You may need a NOC from the relevant authorities to start your food truck business. Start by submitting your detailed business plan to both the Dubai Municipality and the Department of Economic Development (DED). Once both authorities approve your plan, you can proceed to obtain all other necessary approvals. This systematic approach ensures a solid foundation for your food business, emphasizing safety and regulatory compliance.
Requirements for License
You need the following to obtain the license:
- A business license and a Non-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Landlord.
- Approvals are required from the Drainage Department (where applicable) and the Dubai Municipality Planning Department.
- A layout assessment approval is required which is given after the permit officers at Al Kifaf Center conduct the assessment of the layout.
- A registered trade license for the specific location and activity. A branch license is required if there is an existing license and a food truck needs to be obtained.
- A formal space contract with the approved location’s owner
The license is valid for one year and must be renewed annually.
Food Import and Export License
This license is for businesses involved in importing and/or exporting food products. To acquire an Import Export License in Dubai, one must apply through the Dubai Economy (Department of Economic Development) or a Free Trade Zone. Foreign investors need to register their company as a trading or general trading entity before they can apply for a license.
The following documents are required for the license application:
- Emirates ID of the local sponsor, along with the NOC letter if the owner works in the UAE
- Copy of the entry stamp or residence visa page
- Various name choices for the company
- Financial information, including an income statement and balance sheet
- Passport copies of all company shareholders
- Completed company registration application form
This license is required for catering businesses offering relevant services for parties, exhibitions, events, and other occasions. Operating a catering business in Dubai is a lucrative venture, given the city’s diverse culinary scene. The UAE food service market is projected to grow at a 6.8% CAGR from 2022 to 2027, making it an opportune time to start a catering business in Dubai.
Dubai is known for its variety of cuisines. It features world-famous delicacies like Manousheh, Iranian Sangak, Oozie, and Mahalabiya. Opening a catering business is an entrepreneurial opportunity as the demand for quality catering services is high, especially with the city’s reputation for grand weddings and events.
Catering businesses serve at various events such as weddings, parties, and corporate functions, requiring excellent culinary skills and attention to detail. The business can operate from either a commercial kitchen or a mobile setup, depending on the event and guest count.
Here are the documents that you need to submit:
- Entry Visa or stamp page copies
- Passport size photographs
- Stakeholder’s passport copies
- Additional documents as per requirement
If you have the appropriate growth strategy for your business, getting a catering license in Dubai can be a one-time investment that yields large earnings. It is significant to remember that a number of factors affect how much a catering business license and setup will cost. These expenses cover things like location and service fees. Thus, telling the precise price is not possible
Foodstuff or Food Trading License
Foodstuff trading plays a vital role in Dubai’s economy, being a significant contributor for many years. As a global trade hub in the Middle East, the UAE witnesses high volumes of food imports and exports, making starting a foodstuff trading business in Dubai a lucrative venture.
Dubai’s renowned food scene, with numerous local and international restaurants and cafes, relies on a steady supply of quality food items provided by foodstuff trading companies. The demand for such trading is consistently high.
To establish a foodstuff trading business in Dubai, the Department of Economic Development (DED) issues the necessary business licenses for companies on the mainland. Submission of required documents to the DED is essential for the registration process.
For a foodstuff trading business in Dubai, obtaining a commercial license or food trading license is mandatory. The common business structure is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with a 51-49 shareholding structure, adhering to UAE law. Foreign-owned companies in Dubai mainland must partner with a local sponsor, who holds 51% of the shares, while the foreign owner holds the remaining 49%.
Here are the documents that you need to submit to get the license:
- The Emirates ID of shareholders having a residence visa
- Passport copies of all shareholders
- NOC from the current sponsor, if the shareholder has a residence visa
- Visa page of the shareholder – visit visa or residence visa
Sub-activities that come under Foodstuff Trading in Dubai
You may include the following trade license sub-activities in addition to your primary business activity of food trading:
- Vegetables and fruits trading
- Egg trading
- Carbonated water and soft drinks trading
- Flour trading
- Snack food trading
- Vegetable oil and ghee trading
- Spices trading
- Legumes, grains, and cereals trading
- Sugar trading
- Ice trading
- Potatoes trading
- Juice trading
- Mineral water trading
Cloud Kitchen License
The next license that you can consider obtaining is the cloud kitchen license. A cloud kitchen, also known as a dark, virtual, or ghost kitchen, operates without a physical storefront. It relies on online orders and delivery services to serve customers.
This setup is ideal for busy professionals who prefer ordering food online. Operating as a delivery-only restaurant, a cloud kitchen accepts orders through various online platforms and mobile apps. It is relatively easy to manage and offers higher growth margins for business owners.
To start a cloud kitchen business in Dubai, you must obtain a trade license from the relevant government agency. To properly run your business, you might also need to get a food license from the Dubai Municipality.
To begin operating a cloud kitchen business in Dubai, you must submit a few key documents to the relevant department, such as:
- A copy of your business plan
- A few name choices for the company reservation.
- A lease agreement
- A passport copy of the shareholder or owner.
- A visa copy of the shareholder or owner
A bakery focuses on making and selling various baked goods like pastries, bread, desserts, and cakes. It’s an excellent choice if you love baking and want to offer fresh, tasty treats to your customers. Bakeries can be independent businesses or part of a cafe or restaurant, providing a delightful array of baked delights to customers.
Do you have plans to start a bakery in Dubai? No matter where you work, people love sweet delights, cakes, pastries, sweets, croissants, freshly baked items, nutritious bread, and other baked goods. Nonetheless, visitors and locals in Dubai are well known for having sophisticated palates and insatiable culinary curiosity.
If you are willing to set up a bakery in Dubai, you need to get a bakery license or business license. To get the license, you need to obtain the necessary permits from the Department of Food and Safety. Once these permits are secured, proceed to acquire your bakery license from the Department of Economic Development (DED).
Additionally, the approval of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is required, as they oversee various tourism-related operations. With these approvals in place, you can confidently set up your bakery, offering a range of delectable products, whether traditional Asian sweets with Pakistani or Indian origins or modern-day cakes.
Submit the following documents to get the bakery license:
- Copies of passports of all shareholders
- A tenancy contract
- Approval from the Dubai Land Department
- Color passport photos of all shareholders
- Initial approval by the Department of Economic Development (DED) and Dubai Municipality
- NOC from Dubai’s Food and Safety Department
- Planning Department approval
- Memorandum of Association (MoA)
- A comprehensive business plan
- Business name registration certificate
- Payment receipt of trade name reservation
Get Additional Approvals
If your approved bakery license in Dubai doesn’t cover certain business activities, you’ll need additional permits. This could include permits related to food import, depending on your business model. RIZ & MONA CONSULTANCY’s company formation experts can assist you in obtaining these additional permits for your bakery business.
Another important consideration for investors is adhering to the food code standards in the UAE. This comprehensive document outlines the various food norms that entrepreneurs in the food and bakery industry need to follow. Ensuring compliance with these standards is crucial for the success and legality of your bakery business in Dubai.
Grocery Store License
If you want to open a grocery store and sell food products, you should get a grocery store license or a business license for your business. It is crucial to obtain your business’s grocery license in Dubai as well as any other necessary certificates from the relevant authorities. Permission to open a store in Dubai is granted by the Department of Economic Development (DED), which is in charge of mainland jurisdiction.
When you’re getting a grocery store or commercial trade license from the Department of Economic Development (DED), you need to submit some documents with them for initial approval. Once you get that initial approval, you can move on to the next steps in getting your trade license.
Remember, with a grocery license, you can only sell things that are considered grocery items including food products. You’re not allowed to sell anything related to medicine, herbs, pharmaceuticals, or cosmetics. Make sure you pay the grocery license fee in Dubai on time so that your license stays valid all the time.
Documents most commonly required to get the license include:
- Copy of the owner’s passport and visa
- Ejari approvals from the Municipality
- Copy of the tenancy lease contract
- Registration of a trademark approved by the Ministry of Economy
- Municipal approvals
- Company name approval from the Registry Office
- Trading license or copy of the submitted application
Get License for Food Business in the UAE with RIZ & MONA CONSULTANCY
If you are looking to get a license for your food business in Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE, get in touch with RIZ & MONA CONSULTANCY. Our experienced food business setup professionals will not only help you in choosing the right license but also guide you in completing the requirements for the process. Contact us today and we will handle the business setup process on your behalf so that you can focus on other essential things.
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a license to sell food in Dubai?
Yes, you need to have the right type of license depending on your business activity to sell food in Dubai or anywhere else in the United Arab Emirates.
What is the cheapest food license in Dubai?
A cafeteria license is the cheapest license in Dubai that does not cost the applicant a fortune.
Is the cafe business profitable in Dubai?
Yes, running a cafe business is very lucrative in Dubai.
Do I need a license to sell homemade food in Dubai?
Yes, you need a general trading or trader license to sell homemade food in Dubai.
Is a Dubai food license easy to get?
No, it is not that easy to get a food license as the UAE government puts a great emphasis on the health and safety standards for food products in the city.