Starting a food business in Dubai and Sharjah can be a rewarding venture, given the region's diverse culinary landscape and thriving economy. However, like any business endeavor, it requires careful planning and compliance with local regulations. Whether you dream of opening a restaurant, food truck, café, or catering service, understanding the specific requirements for operating in these cities is crucial for success. In this article, we'll explore the necessary steps and guidelines for launching a food business in Dubai and Sharjah, enabling you to navigate the process smoothly.

Legal Requirements for Food Business in Dubai and Sharjah

Before diving into the exciting world of food entrepreneurship, it's vital to meet the legal obligations set by the authorities in Dubai and Sharjah. Here are the key legal requirements you need to address:

Business License

  1. Decide on your business structure: Whether you opt for a sole proprietorship, partnership, or a limited liability company (LLC), choose the one that aligns with your long-term goals and legal requirements.

  2. Obtain a trade license: Apply for a trade license from the Department of Economic Development (DED) in the respective emirate. The type of license required depends on the nature of your food business, such as a restaurant license, catering license, or food truck license.

Food Safety and Hygiene Standards

  1. Comply with local food safety regulations: Ensure that your business adheres to the food safety guidelines set by the relevant authorities. This includes proper storage, handling, and preparation of food items.

  2. Food handler training: Make sure that all your employees, especially those involved in food handling, undergo mandatory food safety training.

Commercial Space and Location

  1. Choose the right location: Select a strategic location for your food business that aligns with your target audience and is compliant with zoning laws.

  2. Obtain necessary permits: Obtain approvals from the Municipality for your business space, including health and trade licenses.

Licensing and Permits

Starting a food business requires several permits and licenses to ensure your operations are legal and safe:

License/Permit Purpose
Trade License Legalizes your business and specifies the activities you can conduct.
Food Handling License Allows your business to handle and prepare food.
Health and Safety Permit Ensures your premises meet the health and safety standards.
Alcohol License (if applicable) Mandatory if you plan to serve alcohol in your establishment.
Signboard License Permits the display of your business name and logo outside your establishment.

H2: Documentation and Paperwork

To obtain the required licenses and permits, you'll need to prepare the following documentation:

  1. Business Plan: A comprehensive plan outlining your business model, target market, competitive analysis, and financial projections.

  2. Passport and Visa Copies: Copies of passports and valid UAE residence visas for all business partners and employees.

  3. No Objection Certificate (NOC): If you're a foreign investor, you'll need an NOC from your sponsor.

  4. Tenancy Contract: A valid tenancy contract for your business premises.

  5. Menu: A detailed menu of the food items you plan to offer.

  6. NOC from Civil Defense: This is required to demonstrate compliance with fire safety regulations.

Staffing Requirements

Building a competent and reliable team is essential for the smooth functioning of your food business. Consider the following staffing requirements:

  1. Visas and Work Permits: Obtain work permits for your foreign employees and ensure that your staff's visa status is up-to-date.

  2. Food Handler Certifications: As mentioned earlier, ensure that all staff involved in food handling obtain the necessary food safety certifications.

Food Business Regulations in Dubai and Sharjah

Both Dubai and Sharjah have specific regulations governing the food industry. It's vital to understand and adhere to these guidelines to avoid any legal issues. Here are some crucial regulations to be aware of:

Dubai Food Code

Dubai's Food Code outlines the standards and requirements for all food-related businesses in the emirate. It covers areas such as:

  • Food labeling and packaging
  • Food additives and ingredients
  • Food transportation and storage
  • Hygiene practices and cleanliness

Sharjah Food Safety Regulations

In Sharjah, the Food Safety Department oversees food safety regulations and inspections. The regulations focus on:

  • Food handling and preparation
  • Food storage and transportation
  • Maintaining a clean and safe environment

Local Municipality Approvals

Before launching your food business, you must obtain approvals from the local Municipality in both Dubai and Sharjah. The process may involve inspections and compliance checks to ensure that your premises meet the necessary health and safety standards.

Halal Certification

If you plan to serve halal food, obtaining a halal certification is essential. This certification ensures that your food preparation processes comply with Islamic dietary laws, a significant consideration in Dubai and Sharjah.

Key Takeaway

Starting a food business in Dubai and Sharjah can be a fulfilling endeavor, but it requires careful planning and adherence to legal and regulatory requirements. To summarize:

  • Obtain the appropriate business license based on your business structure and activities.
  • Comply with food safety and hygiene standards to ensure the well-being of your customers.
  • Secure the necessary permits and approvals from the Municipality.
  • Prepare all required documentation diligently to avoid unnecessary delays.
  • Build a skilled and certified staff to run your operations smoothly.
  • Familiarize yourself with the specific food industry regulations in each emirate.


Launching a food business in Dubai and Sharjah presents a wealth of opportunities. By following the guidelines and fulfilling the legal requirements discussed in this article, you can set a strong foundation for your culinary venture. Remember, staying updated with the latest regulations and continuously striving for excellence will help you create a successful and thriving food business in these dynamic and food-loving emirates.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: Can foreigners start a food business in Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Yes, foreign investors can start a food business in both Dubai and Sharjah. However, they require a local sponsor, agent, or partner to hold the majority share.

Q: What is the typical processing time for obtaining a trade license?
A: The processing time for a trade license varies, but it usually takes between 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the type of business and completeness of documentation.

Q: Is it mandatory to have a physical presence for a food business in Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Yes, a physical presence is generally required for most food businesses. However, virtual and cloud kitchen concepts are gaining popularity in the region.

Q: How can I apply for a halal certification?
A: You can apply for halal certification through the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) or directly through an accredited certification body.

Q: Are there specific rules for food delivery businesses in these emirates?
A: Yes, food delivery businesses need to comply with additional regulations, including proper food handling during transportation.

Q: Can I serve alcoholic beverages in my food establishment?
A: Yes, you can serve alcoholic beverages, but you'll need to obtain a separate alcohol license.

Q: Is it possible to start a food truck business in Dubai and Sharjah?
A: Yes, food truck businesses are allowed, but they must obtain the necessary permits and approvals from the respective authorities.

Q: What type of tenancy contract is required for the trade license application?
A: You'll need an Ejari-registered tenancy contract to apply for the trade license.

Q: How can I ensure compliance with food safety regulations?
A: Conduct regular staff training, maintain proper hygiene practices, and follow the guidelines outlined by the local food authorities.

Q: Do I need to renew my food handling license periodically?
A: Yes, food handling licenses usually need to be renewed annually.

Q: Can I change my business location after obtaining the trade license?
A: Yes, you can change the location, but you'll need to update your trade license accordingly.

Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance with food safety regulations?
A: Non-compliance can lead to fines, closure of the establishment, or legal action against the business owner.

Q: Is it necessary to conduct a market study before starting a food business?
A: While not mandatory, conducting a market study can provide valuable insights into consumer preferences and competition.

Q: Can I import ingredients and raw materials for my food business?
A: Yes, you can import ingredients and raw materials, but ensure they comply with local regulations and are approved by relevant authorities.

Q: Are there any restrictions on the type of cuisine I can offer in my restaurant?
A: Generally, there are no restrictions on the type of cuisine you can offer, but it's essential to cater to the preferences of the local population.

Q: Can I operate my food business from a home kitchen?
A: Operating a food business from a home kitchen is generally not allowed in Dubai and Sharjah due to health and safety concerns.

Q: Can I apply for multiple licenses if I offer different food-related services?
A: Yes, you can apply for multiple licenses if you plan to offer different food-related services, such as catering and a restaurant.

Q: Is it necessary to display the food handling license on the premises?
A: Yes, the food handling license should be displayed in a prominent location visible to customers.

Q: What are the insurance requirements for a food business?
A: Liability insurance is essential to protect your business from potential legal claims and unforeseen incidents.

Q: Can I offer outdoor seating for my restaurant?
A: Yes, you can offer outdoor seating, but you'll need to ensure compliance with the Municipality's guidelines and obtain necessary permits.