On the eve of Eid, while the rest of the neighbourhood sleeps, a kitchen in Dubai's Karama is buzzing with activity. Starting at 3am, City Makani restaurant is bustling with preparations for Eid Al Fitr meals — it's all hands on deck during the entire week, from cutting the meat to peeling onions.

"Usually during Ramadan, we close at around 3am, but on the eve of Eid, we send home our main chefs before midnight so that they can rest," said Muhammad Shahdas, Managing Partner of the restaurant. "By the time they return at 3am, we have done the basic cutting and choppings. Our biryani prep starts at 5am."

Restaurants across the UAE are preparing for the great biryani rush during the Eid week as families and friends gather together for a holiday feast. This year, residents could potentially get a 9-day break if Eid Al Fitr falls on Tuesday, April 9 or a 6-day break if it falls on Monday, April 8. Eid holidays are a time for large groups of friends and extended family members to come together and enjoy hearty meals after a month of fasting. Big gatherings are very common during the holidays.

At Zam Zam Mandi restaurant, which has ten branches across the UAE, a whopping 21,000 customers are expected to dine in during the first two days of Eid. "Apart from that, we are expecting a total of 12,000 delivery orders," said Shaijal Hussain, owner of the restaurant. "We have already placed bulk orders for 470 whole lambs. Usually, during Eid, we hire an extra 120 people to work in our kitchen to meet the demand."

Extremely busy period

"We have a special Eid breakfast with lots of singing and dancing," Shahdas said. "We serve a lot of traditional Kerala dishes. A lot of our customers come straight from Eid prayers to our restaurant for breakfast. It is almost like a wedding celebration in our restaurant."

For lunch, the restaurant has a special biryani platter, good for families and friends to share. "We have demand for both delivery and dine-in," he said. "For delivery, our largest order is a party of 100 people in Zabeel Park on the second day of Eid. We are almost completely booked out for dine-in and have reservations for groups of 20-25 people. On the day of Eid, many people come as walk-in customers. They may have to wait 40 or 45 minutes, a maximum of an hour, but we try to accommodate everyone. We hate to turn away people."

In addition to the restaurants, public kitchens are very busy. Shantanu owns Mushrif Catering, which has branches in both Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. "Our Dubai orders are fully booked," he said. "I have some spaces in Ras Al Khaimah. My largest order is for 1,100 people, for a company Eid party."

He said some of their regular buyers are desert safaris and cruises. "During the Eid holidays, there is a great demand for these activities," he said. "So our kitchen is very busy. I have room to take some last-minute home orders in Ras Al Khaimah. Just yesterday, I got a booking for a party on the second day of Eid. Some people bring their vessels, and we fill them for a party of up to 25 people. For gatherings with more than 25 people, we usually set up a table at the house or pack in our own containers and get it delivered."

Family gatherings

At Dhaba Lane, the restaurant is expecting a good uptick in business. "With the expected nine days of Eid holidays, we anticipate a good level of sales coming in early on," said Eti Bhasin, owner of the restaurant. "Bookings of at least ten passengers and more are being expected, especially after the second day of Eid because that is when larger gatherings happen."

According to Bhasin, their dine-in sales trump their delivery orders. "Families like to come together and rejoice during the festival of Eid," he said. "We have so far had enquiries for special menus and booking up to 20 pax in mainly Karama and JLT branches. We are expecting huge crowds in these areas."

At the Little Lahore restaurant, the team starts work early to ensure customer wait time is minimal. "To avoid queues, we allocate time slots to people," said Saira Ahmed

"We start early in the morning and try our best to accommodate as many people as we can."

The restaurant has also received early bookings for catering and deliveries. "We have an almost full calendar of catering and big delivery orders," she said. "We are still taking online bookings for smaller groups of people."

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