New rules could harm restaurants' profitability in Dubai
Owners of food establishments across Dubai have said that the Dubai Municipality’s Food Code will undoubtedly raise their annual expenditure as they scramble to readjust their menus as per the new regulations.
The new municipal food code, which was launched on Monday, states that food outlets not only have to ensure that non-halal food items are stored and prepared separately from other food items, but that the menus have to specifically mention the main food allergies that can affect diners.
“Up till now, our waiters used to verbally address clients and tell them which items on our food menu contain traces of peanuts or seafood extracts, as well as dairy products,” said Rahil Pateel, a restaurant manager of a Portuguese and a Mexican restaurant.
Pateel pointed out that each restaurant has at least 60 menus, and that will introduce a further burden of Dh6,000 each to re-write the menu.
“Our staff has held regular workshops with municipality inspectors and they are aware about the dos and don’ts in the kitchen. But if these items need to be labelled and stored in separate areas, then we have no other choice but to bear the cost,” he explained, stressing that as much as 75 per cent of his clients are tourists.
According to the Food Code, the most serious allergic food items - such as shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy beans, sesame seeds, fish, egg, milk and gluten - have to be clearly labelled in jars and menus so that they will not contaminate other food items. The new rule comes into effect during the next two years.
“By only changing the menu description of each meal, I’ll have to spend at least Dh100,000 this year to accommodate the new food code,” said Gassan Webeh, who owns two franchises and 17 restaurants across Dubai.
“It will help if the municipality set out a five-year plan and told us accordingly what changes need to be implemented, so that our costs will not be that frequent. In the past few years, we had to bear a lot of financial burdens with the new shisha rules, and the 10 per cent municipal charges,” he said.
Webeh pointed out that since each of his delivery franchises hands out approximately 100,000 menus with take-away meals, that would mean a minimum of Dh10,000 in adjusting the menus alone.
However, most of the restaurants and food outlets explained that their kitchens and methods of food preparation are already in line with the municipality’s food code and that no major adjustments will need to be made in the kitchen.
Restaurants handling pork products said they already have a designated area for pork products, and use different utensils when preparing non-halal products, in addition to clearly mentioning non-halal products on buffet and menu lists.
“The municipality’s guidelines have been clear and our kitchen has been properly organised so that meat and poultry items do not come into contact,” added Juan-Pierre Oosthuysen, outlet manager of a bar and grill restaurant.