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Dubai restaurant scene ‘at risk of hitting saturation point’

Dubai has more than 13,000 restaurants and cafes, according to tourism officials Dubai Tourism
Dubai has more than 13,000 restaurants and cafes, according to tourism officials
  • ‘Too many trade licences’ issued
  • Gates Hospitality to close 2 sites
  • Dubai has similar total to London

Food and beverage operators in Dubai have warned that the emirate’s restaurant market is increasingly saturated as one company calls time on a prominent location.

Gates Hospitality, which operates venues across the Middle East, announced this week that two of its restaurants in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Folly and Publique, would close at the end of this month.

Gates CEO Naim Maadad says the decision was taken after seven years at the tourist destination, which has undergone large-scale renovation since the Covid pandemic.

“There’s a disconnect between our location and our concept,” he says.



“It’s always been a battle. Is it a touristic place, is it a place for the locals, what is the purpose of actually visiting the location on site? We don’t belong in that space any more and that’s one of the main reasons I’ve taken to close.”

Dubai Holding, which operates Souk Madinat Jumeirah, has been contacted for comment.

Maadad confirmed that alternative sites in the emirate were being looked at for both Folly and Publique.

Dubai has more than 13,000 restaurants and cafes, according to a report published by the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism last December.

London had a similar total for restaurants and cafes in 2023, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics – serving a population of about 9 million people, compared with Dubai’s 3.5 million.

Gabrielle Mather, founder and CEO of consultancy Restaurant Secrets, says too many trade licences for food and beverage (F&B) outlets are being handed out in Dubai. She is calling on the emirate’s authorities to pause new issues to allow for an industry “correction”.

“I believe that’s the one way to help the country and entrepreneurs survive, just to reduce this craziness of anybody can open a restaurant anywhere,” she says.

“If we look at controlling the supply a bit, it would give a chance to the ones who are doing good F&B.”

Indian celebrity chef and restaurateur Sanjeev Kapoor, whose Dubai fine-dining restaurant Signature turned 10 last year, told AGBI at the time that the global restaurant industry has a very high failure rate. 

“From 80 to 85 percent of restaurants don’t last beyond two years,” he said.

“The reason is that there is very little entry barrier.”

He added that people who have the money open a restaurant for the “glamour” of it. But that can wear off quickly, he said. 

“People may succeed – or presumably succeed – to the outside world,” he said. 

“The venue may be busy, but it may not be a [successful] business. It’s often getting people in initially only because it’s new.”

Anjali Sawlani, an F&B consultant based in Dubai who has developed food concepts in India, says the emirate’s restaurant scene still lacks the types of places tourists want to put on their lists. 

“Very few places in Dubai offer the sort of authenticity you see elsewhere – like generations of famous local family-run restaurants we look to visit when we travel, that have stood the test of time,” she says.

“That dedication to genuine food and service is what’s missing here. Perhaps you’d only find that in very tiny places in Bur Dubai or Deira.”

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