Raines’ Gavin Philipp on managing soft-branded hotels

Hospitality management, development and investment group Raines launched Woven by Raines two years ago, an operating division for the independent, boutique and soft-branded properties in its portfolio. Leading the division is industry veteran Gavin Philipp, SVP, Woven by Raines, and he connected with Hotel Business to discuss the process of managing soft-branded hotels:

What makes a soft-branded hotel attractive to your company?
Raines has established relationships with all of the major brands through our 35-year history in the core branded arena. It only makes sense for us to build on these partnerships in the soft-branded space as this avenue becomes increasingly popular for investors and guests alike.

How is the development process different with soft-branded properties vs. branded hotels?
For the most part, the brands do allow an increased level of autonomy as it relates to design, selections and programming vs. core branded assets. While in most cases there are still check-in points and some standards to uphold with the brands, the internal team can drive the development process—from defining the individual hotel brand identity all the way through to opening and operation.

How involved are the brands with their soft-branded hotels?
When it comes to the development process, the brands are more flexible with soft-branded assets than core-branded, offering flexibility to create a unique, one-of-a-kind approach for soft-branded hotels. Every brand, whether soft or core, has certain standards to withhold and checkpoints throughout the hotel’s lifecycle. We have found that the level of flexibility varies from one brand to another.

Are there challenges to managing soft-branded properties that you don’t have with branded ones?
Not really. In most cases, it’s a great combination of having the flexibility and autonomy to develop and operate essentially a one-of-a-kind independent asset while still having the backing, visibility and distribution from the brand.

Can you tell us about Woven and how it relates to soft-branded hotels?
Woven was established two years ago to focus solely on soft-branded, independent, boutique, full-service style assets. This includes distinct/one-of-a-kind soft-branded hotels that were already in our portfolio, and we continue to work on growing this segment of our business.