How to get a food truck license in Dubai

December 5, 2018

Dubai’s culinary landscape has been through something of a revolution in recent years – all thanks to the humble food truck. While the emirate has been home to a wide range of gastronomic treats for many years now, these could usually only be found in one of its many luxury restaurants. However, that is no longer the case.

Street food is now big business in Dubai with food trucks lining many of the city’s streets and purpose-built food truck parks popping up in some of the Emirates’ most prestigious locations. Dubai is even home to a floating food truck – Aqua Pod – which serves yachters and jet skiers around the Palm Lagoon and Jumeirah region. 

Dubai’s insatiable appetite for the food truck is growing at such a pace that an ever-increasing number of entrepreneurs are looking to get into the game. And there are plenty of good reasons to, aside from the industry’s newfound popularity.

For one, setting up a food truck business requires considerably less upfront capital than opening up a restaurant in a fixed location. It’s also more flexible and arguably less risky as you are not usually tied into leases or other long-term contracts.

Unlike with a fixed-location restaurant, food trucks allow you to go out and find your market – be it picnickers, beachgoers, office workers, or anyone else that’s hungry for some street food.

However, while the concept of serving up street food may be simple, that is not always the case when obtaining a food truck license in Dubai. There are high standards to meet, and your application must be approved by four independent bodies before you can trade.

Getting your food truck license in Dubai

Unsurprisingly, Dubai sets high standards when it comes to who can run a food truck in the city. Therefore, obtaining a food truck license in Dubai can be a complex process. To be able to trade you must first receive approvals from the Department of Economic Development (DED), Dubai Municipality, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

The first step is to submit your detailed business plan to the DED and the Dubai Municipality. Before you can move to the next step, your plan must be approved by both bodies.

As all food must be prepared in an already graded kitchen, the next step is to find a graded kitchen for your use or find a caterer to outsource your food prep to. Then you can start on the design and layout of your truck.

Both your kitchen and your truck must be approved by the relevant bodies for safety and hygiene. Only with all approvals secure can you find your location and start trading.

Licensing laws are strict, but they are not unnecessarily cumbersome by any means. In many cases, it is possible to receive your license and all relevant approvals in as little as 30 days.

As long as you adhere to the requirements and guidelines as set out by the Dubai authorities, there is no reason why the licensing process shouldn’t run smoothly. To ensure that this is the case, it is a good idea to work with a company formation expert in the UAE who can manage the entire process for you, liaising with all necessary authorities and ensuring your application is complete and accurate.

How much does it cost to start a food truck business in Dubai?

The exact amount of capital you’ll require to start a food truck business in Dubai will depend on some factors. Your chosen location, the style of food you wish to serve, and the layout and style of the truck will all have a bearing on the cost.

The general wisdom among the industry is that it takes around AED 200,000 (USD 55,000) to pay licensing fees and launch your business with a fully outfitted truck. By no means a small amount of money, but certainly far less than launching a traditional restaurant.

While startup costs may be a little high, ROI generally comes quickly. Many food truck owners report breaking even within six months and turning a healthy profit within eight months.

Naturally, this will depend on how many hours you have to put into the endeavour. Riad Gohar, the owner of a successful Dubai food truck startup Frings, says the key to success lies in hard work and plenty of passion.

‘Time should be heavily invested in learning hands on the entire business; from fabricating the trucks, to how to cook and serve, from operation to warehouse management, to interaction with customers and learning their feedback. It’s important to be on-ground and not delegate.’

Why now is the time to start your food truck business in Dubai

Dubai’s food trucks have been fast gaining popularity over the last three to four years, and we are now at the point when the concept is proven, and demand is outweighing supply. As of last year, there were estimated to be around 60 food trucks operating in Dubai. That’s just one truck per 50,000 inhabitants of the emirate.  

Though the number of food trucks will have risen further over the last year, there’s almost certainly still a section of the market that isn’t being adequately served, and your business could be the one that plugs the gap. Your food truck can be whatever you want it to be. Set up a Mongolian BBQ, sell Polish sandwiches or Hungarian goulash, start a Swedish fika stall, or cook up good old fashioned burger and fries – the possibilities are almost endless.

Start a food truck in Dubai, and you’ll also benefit from a ready-made support network. Dubai is home to several purpose-built food truck parks and hosts food truck events throughout the year. Perhaps the most well-known of these is Last Exit – a dedicated food truck park set aside one of the emirate’s busiest highways, the E11 Sheikh Zayed Road. Last Exit has fast become one of Dubai’s trendiest spots and is usually packed with diners looking for everything from Emirati dishes to burritos and American-style burgers.

Dubai’s food truck spots cater for all seasons too. Truckers DXB – a coalition of the emirate’s best food truck owners – regularly run events in large air-conditioned halls during the hotter summer months. During the cooler season, the Food Truck Yard, in the Dubai Garden Centre, offers an open-air alternative. 

Getting your food truck license in Dubai

If you’re ready to take your first steps into an exciting and relatively new industry in Dubai, the first thing you need to do is draw up a business plan. This should include a description of your concept and of course your business model. With this in place, you can apply to both the DED and the Dubai Municipality for your food truck license.

As already covered, this can be a rather complex process – particularly for those new to the business world in Dubai. That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as CREATIVE ZONE who can manage the entire process for you. This includes obtaining your license, applying for visas, and opening a corporate bank account. CREATIVE ZONE is a one-stop shop service, all we need is a little information and a few documents from you, and we’ll do the rest.