How does a restaurant survive in Dubai?

A strong financial plan much before you start your restaurant is paramount for sustainability and success

Burj Al Arab's famous seafood restaurant Al Mahara
Burj Al Arab's famous seafood restaurant Al Mahara

At a panel discussion on emerging F&B trends in Dubai, David Thomas, CEO, GLC Investments gave a nugget of wisdom on the three key touchpoints of a restaurant's success – “Survive sustain and grow, that’s what concepts need to understand” he said.

Thomas went on to explain how to go about achieving it, saying: “Everyone is passionate about starting a restaurant in Dubai, they all have a concept and enter with initial capital. Owners need to have a proper financial business plan or they will fail.”

“You pay high rents in Dubai, and you need to consider that at the initial stages of development. Take your plan or concept to a certified financial auditor, not an accountant that crunches debit and credit,” he said.

“Scalability is extremely important and that can only be achieved with a sound financial model.”

“For individuals armed with a concept, seeking venture funds in the restaurant business is not easy. If you have working capital for a period of five years, by all means, you do not need to worry,” he added.

Thomas, who has successfully started and ran several F&B restaurants in Dubai, lambasted the brand-conscious approach that malls have. “They (malls) are hung up on brands, they do not (always) entertain indigenous concepts. People need choices, and malls forget to analyse that. Consumers need to be given the brand options, a one-off local brand amongst several of the ‘big-boys’ in the food courts will fail. It needs to be a conscious effort of encouraging many local brands.”

“If you have two million dollars and think you can start a restaurant, and succeed, you would be pleasantly surprised. Those two million dollars will be wiped out in two months,” he concluded.

Thomas was stern in emphasising the importance of an initial business plan that needs to be in place at the start. He believes a brand can be successful, and thrive in the Dubai market, and eventually conglomerates will que up to buy you out for exorbitant amounts.

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