Is disposable cutlery mandatory? Frequently asked questions about eating at UAE restaurants

How often are the tables and seats cleaned? And are children allowed in?

A handout photo of Salmon Tataki with Truffel Ponzu & wasabi Salsa (Courtesy: Nobu Dubai)
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As restaurants across the UAE are now open again, The National finds out exactly what diners can expect from eating out.


In late April, restaurants in Dubai were allowed to reopen with a limited capacity of 30 per cent. This has since been increased to a 50 per cent capacity, with strict guidelines on ensuring social distancing between tables.

As with other industries, workers and customers must have their temperatures checked on arrival, plus wear face masks when entering and leaving, but not while eating. People over the age of 60 are not permitted in restaurants.

Are hospitality employees regularly tested for Covid-19?

There are no rules regarding regular Covid-19 testing, but in line with governmental requirements, employees must have their temperatures checked frequently and if they are showing any symptoms, they are isolated immediately.

How often are tables and chairs disinfected in the restaurants?

As per official guidelines, tables and chairs are to be disinfected after each use and before a shift.

Eugenie Dronneau of FoodKarma says: “Food and beverage vendors are disinfecting every table and chair after every guest use, and several times a day even if empty, along with a team assigned to sanitise all heavy touchpoint areas several times during the day, ending with a deep general sanitation daily at closing time.”

Restaurants at Atlantis The Palm, for example, are doing this: “We have increased disinfection of high touchpoint areas across restaurants and bars, including hostess desks, service stations, service carts, beverage stations, counters, handrails and trays. These are sanitised at least once every hour by a dedicated team.

“All restaurant tables, bar tops, stools and chairs will be sanitised using hospital-grade disinfection chemicals before and after each use.”

Do all restaurant staff have to wear masks at all times, including chefs?

Yes. As per the government’s guidelines, all staff front- and back-of-house must wear face masks. Dronneau explains: “All restaurant staff, without exception, are required to wear masks and gloves at all times. Masks and gloves are also changed several times a day at the restaurant’s discretion, but in our experience many are taking conservative measures and doing this regularly.”

Customers are required to wear a facemask at the sauce station in Nine Squares Hotpot in Dubai International City.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)


Are disposable plates and cutlery mandatory?

These are only mandatory to use at certain restaurants. Duncan Fraser-Smith, a founding member of the Middle East Restaurant Association and founder of Cutting Edge Hospitality Agency, explains: “Restaurants that are equipped with the appropriate high-intensity deep clean and sterilisation dishwashing machines, as approved by the relevant UAE authorities, are utilising those facilities to maintain the highest levels of cleanliness and sanitisation of crockery, cutlery and glassware.

“Those outlets that do not meet that requirement are required to use single-use, disposable options.”

At the Atlantis restaurants, which have the correct equipment, reusable options are available and plates, glassware and cutlery are mechanically disinfected using a dishwasher operating above 82°C.

Is there a limit to the number of people that can be seated at one table?

The restaurants at Atlantis The Palm will not seat more than five people per table.

This is always subject to change and numbers have varied in the recent past, however, says Fraser-Smith. “We are constantly monitoring the directives from the relevant UAE authorities and sharing that with those in the industry, as this is a very dynamic situation.”

Will venues that used to host birthday parties and special events still be able to do that?

No, not at the moment, as events are prohibited.

Can I go to brunch?

Yes, brunch is back at a number of Dubai restaurants, but with strict guidelines in place. For example, as per municipality guidelines, buffets are currently not permitted, but many Friday brunches are still returning.

Here's a list of restaurants that are now offering Friday brunch packages.

Are buffets allowed?

No. Because of the nature of buffet spreads, which involve various customers handling the same equipment and dip into the same dishes, these have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.

Check out our article on the future of self-service buffets for more information.

Gordon Ramsay Hell's Kitchen at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai started serving brunch from Friday, May 29. Supplied 

Are children allowed to eat out?

Children between the ages of 3 and 12 are allowed into independent and hotel restaurants.

However, children below the age of 12, and those above the age of 60, are still not allowed to enter malls, cinemas or sports facilities. So, by default, food and beverage outlets within malls are off-limits for children, for now.

Here's a list of 15 restaurants you can take your children to in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi

Early in May, Abu Dhabi's restaurants were allowed to reopen with limited capacity of up to 30 per cent, although this is expected to increase to 40 per cent next week.

This includes outlets outside malls, which can have up to two people seated at each table, which must be distanced at least 2.5 metres apart.

Payments can only be made electronically. Staff and customers must wear masks and gloves and disinfectants must be used frequently.

Outlets must only serve food and drink using disposable cutlery, and hand sanitiser dispensers must be available.

Adults over the age of 60 and children under the age of 12 are not permitted.

Northern Emirates

Restaurants are now open with limited capacity and strict safety measures in place across all of the northern emirates.