With his unique boutique hotels, stylish trendsetting bars and innovative culinary concepts, Ariel Schiff is ahead of trends long before the rest of Germany catches on. The claim to fame of the Managing Director of the AMANO hotel group is that he creates lively places that wow. This creative visionary does not shy away from trickier construction projects either.
We enter a back yard in the Mitte district of Berlin, where the Hotel AMO by AMANO is located. If you're picturing us standing in front of a towering building, you couldn't be more wrong. Nothing but a glass pavilion protrudes from the ground – a little larger than an igloo and forming an exotic contrast to the older buildings so typical of Berlin. One may be forgiven for thinking that you're looking at the entrance to a luxury car park. We, however, know what to expect: the lift in the pavilion does indeed carry us below ground, but it is something entirely different that awaits us there. The door slides open and there it is – the underground reception of the Hotel AMO.
The AMO has been Germany's first underground hotel since 2019. It was the brainchild of Ariel Schiff, 2019's Hotelier of the Year: together with his architects, the Managing Director of the AMANO Group hotel chain took the reception, bar and breakfast room underground. "The layout was not exciting enough for a hotel," says the creative founder. The fact that the building was a listed building complicated the task, but it also led Schiff to a unique solution: "We simply dug out the large inner courtyard and created a huge underground hotel area." Although this isn't something that can just be accomplished overnight, Schiff never once lost faith in his idea. In the end, it took a year and a half to complete. "I love being an entrepreneur and being free to try out unusual things. Today when I watch guests step into the glass cube, walk down the stairs and come to a standstill in front of our reception with their eyes wide open, it is quite an experience for both them and me," says Schiff.
The hotelier is well known in the industry for innovative ideas like this. Creating places where the experience takes centre stage is Schiff's constant goal. When designing his hotels, trendy bars and fashionable restaurants, this Berlin native goes far beyond the mere idea of accommodation and food. Starting with the construction of his hotels and down to the finest interior designs, his mark is pervasive.
From the minimalist and artistically furnished AMANO East Side in Berlin to the modern, playful interior style of the Hotel MIO in Munich and right through to the comfortable Hotel Düsseldorf Mitte, in which dark contrasts mix with copper light elements, each building has a distinctive look and almost every hotel is furnished by a different interior designer. "There is a definite AMANO DNA, but I want every hotel to have its very own soul," says the hotelier.
For Schiff, every detail of the AMANO hotels should convey an unmitigated lifestyle and be its very own place to be. Take the famous hotel bars of the AMANO Group, for example. "Ten years ago, hotel bars were still considered bourgeois and boring. People went there because they had nothing better to do. I wanted to make the hotel bar a fun place to be." He therefore opened the G&T Bar, Germany’s first gin & tonic bar. "We didn’t invent gin, but we made it something special by being the first bar to offer gin with matching tonics and special gin cocktails," says the entrepreneur.
Today Berlin’s best bartenders serve drinks such as Butter Bean with lime, honey, Beurre Noisette and filtered milk or gin shots infused with tea. In addition, they welcome world-famous DJs who fill the air with trendy beats – such as the New Yorker Stimulus, discovered by music producer Mark Ronson himself. “We believe in fun above all else,” says Schiff.
This fascination Schiff has for revolutionary bar concepts came from visiting the Hudson Hotel in New York City, USA. “I was so inspired by that hotel – New Yorkers would queue around the block and book a hotel room without hesitation just to gain entry to the bar", says Schiff enthusiastically. This is also where he got the inspiration for his rooftop bars, which are the flagship venues of the AMANO Group today: “I figured if this wasn't a perfect fit in young, dynamic Berlin – where else would it be?"; The innovative hotelier was proven right: thousands of hotel guests and residents regularly enjoy delicious drinks here with a view of the city panorama. As a matter of fact, the idea for his own glass cube also came to him in New York City – his inspiration was the glass entrance of an Apple store in Central Park.
The visions for his hotel restaurants MANI and JOSEPH were born during his trips to Tel Aviv. With these restaurants, Schiff has created culinary hotspots that bring the vibrant life of Tel Aviv to Berlin. The restaurants' “Isramani: Drink & Dance" party series is undeniably a recipe for success. “It's sometimes booked out for months," says the hotelier. “It's quite normal in the evenings for people who are complete strangers to suddenly stand up – and all of a sudden, the whole restaurant is dancing," says Schiff. On a culinary level, he is way ahead of the pack: “A few years ago, restaurant behaviour in Israel changed completely. Young, ambitious cooks came onto the market and interpreted Israeli cuisine in a very contemporary way, with many vegetarian and vegan dishes. I liked that." So why not simply try it out in Germany? Today, modern Israeli cuisine is served at JOSEPH. This includes delicious creations such as the Jerusalem bagel, chicken musakhan and grilled merguez with green hummus. New dishes are added to the menu every three months. To bring JOSEPH into being, Schiff brought outstanding support on board in the form of the Israeli celebrity chef Yossi Elad and the two Frankfurt catering professionals James and David Ardinast.
Where does Schiff's unique flair for trends come from? "Ask my parents," he says with a laugh. He also inherited his fondness for lively locations from them. Schiff, who practically grew up in his parents' club in southern Spain, founded the AMANO Group – which currently includes eight hotels – in Berlin in 2009. Before that, he was working in the real estate industry when, as is typical of his approach, he promptly seized the opportunity to take over two vacant hotels through his old employer. "I never lost my connection to the hotel and catering trade," says the businessman. But he also knows that not everything can always succeed immediately. Although he is not a fan of staying still, he is aware that you sometimes need a little patience. "I'm just saying: the worst thing is when we're not doing anything, while we are waiting to see how things develop – or not."
Ariel Schiff cannot yet say what plans he will be pursuing in five years' time. “I will continue to keep an eye out for new trends," says the committed entrepreneur. And there are, of course, always new projects in the pipeline. Schiff is currently planning hotels in London, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. Such great visions seem to be a given when it comes to the story of this creative mind: as long as there are new trends, Ariel Schiff will be there to discover them and give them his very own character.