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Dubai Vs Montreal's Restaurant business in numbers!

Well, to start with, I have lived for years in both cities, am a restaurateur by passion, and started my career in the restaurant industry in 1998. Lived in Dubai from 2004 to 2016 then Moved to Kuwait & Doha before landing in Montreal.

For those who have never been in any of these two cities, here is a brief about the restaurant industry in both cities :


1,610 sq km, Total population of 3.5 M .

GPD in 2021: 177 Billion $.

A total of 13,000 restaurants & cafes per Dubai economy & tourism department in the report released in Sept 2022.

That is a restaurant for every 269 residents.

Dubai has many restaurants that have been nominated within the top 100 restaurants in the world and the city was declared as the 4th best destination for food lovers as per TripAdvisor's 2022 Travelers Choice awards !

Montreal :

431.50 sq km, total population of 2 M.

GDP in 2021: 234 Billion $.

A total of 4865 restaurants and cafes as of July 2023 reported by the local restaurant association, with an expected growth rate of 10.79% between 2023 to 2030.

That is a restaurant for every 419 residents, Montreal has one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in Canada by the way.

Also, many of Montreal's restaurants have been nominated as the best in the world.

-Dubai has 260 fine-dining restaurants , and many of its restaurants are located in hotels where it has 800 hotels most 5-star hotels have an average of 5 to 6 restaurants per hotel, which means 3000 to 4000 restaurants are located in hotels, In general Alcohol is not permitted to be served in a lot of independent restaurants except if they are part of a hotel or a specially licensed complex, therefore most of the alcohol is sold in hotels' restaurants, therefore there is only 240 bars in Dubai as per rentechdigital report that was released in Sept 2023 .

Montreal is a city that doesn't build restaurants to be Michelin-star rated and the city only has 140 high-end restaurants as this segment of business has been reducing in the last few years due to the economic situation while fast and casual dining is growing.

Montreal has around 2400 Bars which is almost 50% of total restaurant business.

It is obvious that the difference in the nature of restaurant / Bar breakdown between both cities is due to culture differences, although the majority of Dubai population are expats and they do patronize bars but this is one of the main reasons that a bar business is so profitable and successful in Dubai when compared to other restaurants that do not serve alcohol.

Dubai has no issues with staffing and it is easy to apply for jobs and fly to work in Dubai from all over the world, any work that has a vacancy will sponsor the candidate and offer them accommodation, flight tickets and a basic salary VS Montreal only depends on its local residents as its Visa regulations are restrictive to many applicants that wish to apply for vacancies in the city but it is not possible for them to be accepted and the city doesn't have the same sponsorship path as Dubai, each candidate should be responsible for finding and paying for their own accommodation, therefore the city struggles to find qualified candidates and it has a high turnover ratio in its staff and that is one of main Canada's market challenges overall!

A Payroll cost shouldn't exceed 25% in Dubai of the total sales of a restaurant and this includes (Basic salary + benefits etc... While in Montreal it can go up to 50 and 60% of a business's total sales but in general it sits between 35-40% which is one of the main business challenges and you can imagine business's profitability!

In a nutshell, we can see that Dubai's restaurant market is very competitive, yes it has higher profitability than having a restaurant business in Montreal, but due to growing competition, these profit margins might be eaten over time, While in Montreal a restaurant's profitability is lower but it has less competition, therefore if a concept succeeds and gets higher crowds could be one of the reasons for the lower competition in the city.

I will be happy to share more insights into both city's restaurant businesses if anyone has questions. I hope that I have managed to share some of my knowledge about the restaurant scene between Dubai and Montreal.

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