Leading hotel brand has brought its Israeli DNA to London

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Leading hotel brand has brought its Israeli DNA to London

Ariel Schiff's Amano group draws on his eclectic heritage to extend its offering to business and leisure clients in the most sought-after locations

Amano Rooftop terrace 
Photo: John Athimaritis
Amano Rooftop terrace Photo: John Athimaritis

When Ariel Schiff, founder of the trendy Amano hotel group, found the perfect site for his debut UK offering, he did not expect that he would be building it over Zoom.

But when the pandemic struck, just a few months after Schiff had received planning permission for the landmark London hotel in the heart of Covent Garden – the Berlin-based businessman had no choice.

Ariel Schiff, Amano Hotel Group

“It was terrible,” recalls Schiff, who had opened 12 hotels across Germany before deciding to enter the UK market. “We started the process before Covid and then suddenly it was lockdown and impossible for us to come to the UK.  For the first time in my life, I developed a hotel over Zoom.

“We had to do the entire construction process online. Sometimes samples were sent to Germany for us to look at but mostly it was the architects showing us videos and us making big decisions remotely.” He added: “Nobody knew how long the pandemic would last, so we just carried on.” Despite the difficulties, Schiff says he is “very happy” with the finished product.

Quite. The Amano Covent Garden has become one of the City’s most sought-after hotspots for both business and leisure clientele since it launched in 2022, situated just a few minutes from Covent Garden station. For location, says Schiff, is everything. “This [location] is our USP and is super important.”

The bar at Amano Covent Garden

In keeping with the Amano brand’s unique style and character, the “city lifestyle” hotel features a popular rooftop terrace. And the hotel’s food and beverage offering sets it apart in the competitive London market.

Inspired by Schiff’s dual heritage, the hotel is home to its signature restaurant, Penelope’s. Named after one of Schiff’s four children, Penelope serves Israeli-Spanish fusion food, inspired by the flavours Schiff discovered while growing up between Tel Aviv and southern Spain. The hotel holds a regular ‘Isramani’ party – ‘Isramani’ being a mash up of ‘Israeli’  — the food it serves— and “Mani” – the restaurant in Berlin where the parties were created.

Schiff has long enjoyed Israeli food, explaining that his late-father would often take him and his family to visit their cousins in Israel.

“We (Amano) have the Israeli DNA,” says Schiff. “I have family in Israel, my wife was born there and we have a lot of friends there. There’s a big connection.”

Penelope’s restaurant at the AMANO hosts regular Israeli-inspired ‘Isramani’ party nights

The AMANO Group employs around 50-to-60 Israelis, who Schiff has flown over to work in the restaurants. “They are helping us bring the Israeli mentality to the restaurants. You are more likely to hear Israeli or English being spoken there than German [where a majority of them are].”

The period after 7 October was extremely challenging for Schiff and his staff.

“We struggled a lot. We had to close our restaurants, some because we were afraid to open them in Germany, but the main point wasn’t fear; many of our Israeli workers lost family and friends and weren’t able to work. They were sad and in shock. And some of our staff were called up to the reserves.”

Schiff closed for a couple of weeks and when they opened “business was bad.

“Our Jewish customers didn’t feel like going to a restaurant and dancing, and some of our non-Jewish customers were afraid to go to Israeli restaurants. Even now people are asking if we have security.”

Business has since picked up with occupancy back to pre-pandemic levels.  “People are starting to go out again, and there’s the Jewish mentality of not to give up and to say ‘we are here’.”

Schiff wasn’t always destined for the hotel industry. “My father owned a nightclub in Spain and told me that if I wanted to take it over, I had to learn something beforehand about hotels.” When his father died, Schiff, who was 13 at the time, “always had in (his) mind to learn hotels like my father said.” He went to work in a large Germany hotel group but realised it “wasn’t for (me). I learnt the business but the money wasn’t good.”

He went on to study business administration at university before entering the real-estate world. When one of his tenants, who ran a hotel, went bankrupt, he and his business partner Artur Süsskind, saw the opportunity to take it over. “With my past experience, I was able to rescue the hotel. This was my first hotel and it was completely by accident, but I don’t regret that move at all.” The same thing happened with another tenant. “We realised we knew how to do it and we wanted to do it more.”

Today, Amano has a portfolio of 12 hotels; 8 in Berlin, one in Munich, Dusseldorf, Leipzig and London with six others under construction in Leipzig, Munich, Hamburg and Boston.

The biggest challenge, notes Schiff, is labour costs. “It’s a problem all over the world, labour costs have gone up hugely. We have to find ways to work with less people and last year, we really focused on how we can do this.”

Looking ahead, while Schiff rules out any plans to open a hotel in Israel, he said he would love to open another one in London. “We have the infrastructure there now, so it makes more sense to open another in London than in another UK city.”


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