Posted on October 28, 2014

Just coming up for air. So, as I’m getting inundated with emails, i thought it would be a good idea to make a one-stop cheat sheet/FAQ.


Btw, felt really nice all the people coming up to me at the markets saying thanks for the posts! Really good to know that it has helped people.


Right, enough with the false modesty, here’s what you came for.




  • This is a total rough guide to give you an idea for setting up a small/casual restaurant here






Setup/licensing Rough cost DED/Freezone 30-40k 4-6 weeks
Hiring Visa and paperwork per staff 10000 2 weeks
Branding Basic 5000 2-4 weeks
Good 15000 1-2 months
Pro 50000 1-3 months
Food Photography (per session) 5000 1 day
Leafleting DED approval 500 1 day
Community approval (Emaar, Nakheel etc) 500-800 Can be up to 5 days
(eg) double-sided a4 15-25fils/leaflet (minimum qty 10,000) 1-2 days
Distribution 15fils/leaflet 1 day
Renting location 10% deposit, 5-10% agent fee, grace period of 2-3 months for fit-out work Vary according to market rates, location etc. Check dubizzle
Fit-out cost Very basic (not including furniture or kitchen equipment) 200/sqft 2 months. Paperwork can delay this by MONTHS (civil defence works not approved, extra power from DEWA needed, licensing not ready etc)
Salaries Service staff 2000-2500/month
Cook 3000-3500/month
Kitchen Help 1500/month
Driver 2500-3500/month




The setup procedure can be confusing and red-tapey, so this may help. Been a while since i’ve done it so it’s probably changed 🙂








START Get a PRO (Public Relations Officer) 5000 Find a referred and effective PRO. Hard to come by. A bad one will make you age early
Getting licensed (FZ and non FZ) Initial Approval Application 1100 (DED) 3-5 days Passport Copy, Application form, Trade Name for your biz
Security check 1-2 weeks Dont be a fugitive Need to check if you are legit 🙂
License fee/registration 15,000-22,000 1 week Initial Approval, Tenancy contract License fee varies according to freezones
Memorandum of Understanding (non FZ license only) 8000-20000/year to sponsor 3 days Applicable only for DED. Sponsor needs to be 51% stakeholder. or a Service Agent, and will be paid an annual negotiated fee.
Get a Location Rent a shell&core unit Lease deposit and agent fee Varies according to size,location, market. Check dubizzle
Bank Account Bank Approval 5 days
Bank deposit 50,000 (starting) 5 days Shareholders certificate,Trade license Minimum holding amount must be deposited (again, depends on freezone, on license activity. Frozen until trade license is ready
Hiring Create a Portal account 1 day Trade license
Apply for visa 7000-9000 2 weeks Pre-medical from country of origin (if staff from Sri Lanka, Indonesia). Entry Visa, Passport copy of staff. Education certificate, birth certificate.
UAE Medical 300-400 1-2 days Entry Permit
Emirates ID and residency 370 2 weeks  Entry Permit, UAE Medical
Exit country 600 1 day  Entry Permit
Basic Food Hygiene Training 100 1 day
Occupational Health Card 100 1 day Visa/Emirates ID
Assign Auditor Appoint auditor for end of year financials 10000/year 2-3 days Freezones only Normally an audt report has to be submitted within 3 months after year end
Insurance 5000/year


Frequently Asked Questions


Can i get a license for Food Trucks?

Nope, not YET. We and a bunch of other startups will be participating with the new Eat Street program which is a group of Food Trucks to promote homegrown concepts. Currently in trial phases, more updates when it happens.

How does Salt do it?

*UPDATE* So, i actually went to Salt and was served up some Humble Pie! I had previously written maybe they got a license through wasta, but the people i met are entrepreneurs like me – real people who have setup a real business through their own efforts – and in hindsight, lighthearted or not, it’s not a nice thing to say, same if someone said Moti Roti got their truck through wasta and not honest hard work! The owners stories were startingly similar to mine in getting approvals in a very inflexible business environment, and they are not the only Emiratis I’ve seen who don’t have it easy and so i encourage others also not to perpetuate the ‘wasta’ stereotype.

Will they allow food trucks in Dubai in the future?

Yes, probably.

Can i cook from my home?

No way, Jose. However certain fairs and markets can permit baked goods, you need to check with them first

Do i go for a Freezone or DED license?

In my opinion there is not too much difference between the two, so it’s down to which location you want to setup your business in, and if that location is in a freezone or not.

Where do you get your hair done?

The dudes next to the mosque near Aswaaq


If anyone needs more information i’m doing paid consultancy for startups please go to for more details.

Will get back to blogging soon, until then fellow startups and upstarts.