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What Entrepreneurs Need To Know About Opening A Restaurant In Dubai Opening and successfully operating any business requires resilience and an entrepreneurial mindset, along with strategic leadership and smart systems.

By Gabrielle Mather

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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Is it challenging to open a restaurant in Dubai?

Not more than it is in any other major city in the world.

Opening and successfully operating any business requires resilience and an entrepreneurial mindset, along with strategic leadership and smart systems.

Understanding that you are taking a step into the ownership of your own dreams and goals, as well as impact so many lives, can help fathom the expected challenges of being a business owner in F&B.

But if you're considering an starting an entrepreneurial journey in the restaurant industry, there are some hard truths to be aware of.

Firstly, the F&B business is competitive, and we are watching some really good concepts and offerings opening doors every year, so opening a restaurant can be challenging if you plan to do it without a conceptual strategy, or with a mediocre product, wrong location, or poor forecasts. You need to prepare properly for success.

In Dubai, we still have a small market share in terms of population to serve all of the new openings, which makes it even more crucial to research and build a strong feasibility study with forecasted financial numbers. It can be challenging if you do open without a good understanding of how the F&B industry runs on numbers.

Location has always been a very important strength in F&B, and it is relevant in Dubai too. Being able to identify size and rent versus potential and possibilities of making profits in that space are strategic decisions. Good locations are also in short supply, and finding the right fit remains a top challenge, just like in any other cosmopolitan major city in the world.

Next comes the need for leadership and a people-focused mentality, a lack of which is what I believe to be one of the biggest reasons for failure in the F&B domain. There is too much expectation by employers for staff to make business owner decisions. So, if you wish for your restaurant to be run on auto-pilot by restaurant managers and chefs with strong leadership, resource management, and strategic decision-making, that's a true challenge you will face.

Lastly, Dubai is a city of opportunity as well as magnitude. Don't be faint hearted. Plan, strategize, and get the right resources and partners on board, and then, play to win. If you are planning to open a restaurant, aim to be the best in all its offerings from product, location, marketing, service, and operational control.

Remember, challenges mean opportunities. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity. I'd rather grow, improve, evolve, and thrive in a challenging market like Dubai, than stagnate in old bureaucratic regions that may be more stable, but do not support entrepreneurial vision.

But then again, that's just my opinion, and 25 years of calling Dubai my home may have honed me in that direction. I've been opening, operating and helping clients for the last two decades, and I continue to believe after experiencing the recession of 2008, and now the global COVID-19 pandemic, that we have enough historical data to prove how Dubai's consistent commercial decisions, entrepreneurial spirit, resilience, and affluent population make opening a restaurant here (and successfully running it) to be no more challenging than in other parts of the world.

Every challenge is different, but the human spirit is a learner and a survivor. The F&B business is the same. It is simply survival of the fittest- armed, of course, with the best concept, strategy, and operating skills.

Related: Building A Future-Ready Restaurant Business In The UAE: The How-To

Gabrielle Mather

Founder and CEO, Restaurant Secrets Inc and Cornerstone 61 Consultancy

Gabrielle Mather, founder and CEO of Restaurant Secrets Inc. and Cornerstone 61 Consultancy, both specialized F&B firms based in Dubai, has lived across the UK, Singapore, and UAE. Her 25 years of experience as a Dubai resident, along with her diverse international experiences, are illustrated in both her business and personal life. She is a seasoned restaurateur and operator, and as a trusted F&B consultant, she has been incubating F&B businesses since 2001.

Gabrielle has led the development of over 300 F&B concepts with 360-degrees hands-on experience in back- and front-of-house experiences with particular expertise in concept creation, menu development, interior design and brand development. As the co-founder and ex-COO of Lincoln Hospitality, from 2018 to 2020, her leadership oversaw the rebranding and operational turn-around of four prime Emaar properties La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie, The Loft at Dubai Opera, Taikun, and Distillery in the 2019 acquisition of the US$100 million capex venues by Restaurant Secrets Inc.

With a business (marketing) degree from the University of Hartford, she is also a Quality Auditor certified by Bureau Veritas Quality International (BVQI) - International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and she has also been trained in luxury product development at the University of London.

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