Raines rebrands, recalibrates during pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly paralyzed the hospitality industry worldwide, Florence, South Carolina-based hospitality management, development and investment group Raines got busy analyzing their performance and goals for the future. The company, which has over 20 years of experience in development and management, decided to rebrand itself to expand their services. The relaunch included an updated brand name, a new website and two new business arms — Array and Woven.

“We went from Raines Hospitality to simply Raines, as the Raines name has a proven history of success, but dropping hospitality allows us to expand our services over time. Hospitality will always be our core focus, while allowing growth in areas such as commercial real estate,” Raines Managing Partner Grey Raines told HOTELS.

Long-term development

With a portfolio of 20 managed hotels (and three under development) across the Carolinas and Georgia, 1,927 keys and 2021 revenue that was projected at US$80 million, Raines’ approach to development is to hold long-term. The company owns 80% of the portfolio, with the ownership stake ranging between 20% and 100%, the remaining 20% of their portfolio being third-party managed.

“We have a pipeline of six to 10 hotels. Among those in the pipeline, three to five projects are financed and will begin development in 2022, while the others are in the planning phase. Additionally, we are looking to add three to five third-party management contracts annually,” Raines elaborated.

Moving forward, the company plans to focus on the Southeast through development and third-party management contracts. Raines intends to make key hires at the corporate level in 2022 to help support its expansion plans. The company recently appointed Kristen Myers as the vice president of investments, who will be in charge of the company’s investments and capital activities. An employee of Raines since 2015, Myers has served as the vice president of development for five years and has managed Raines’ insurance portfolio and launch of its IMS platform.

“Investor relations is an integral part of Raines as we pursue expanding our portfolio and work towards our long-term vision. I’m excited to focus on growth in this specialized role; improving upon the current investor experience, while opening doors for new investor opportunities as well,” Myers said.

The most recent addition to the Woven portfolio — Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa — was purchased in April 2021, with plans to refurbish the property.

Focus on Woven by Raines

Post the company’s rebranding, the company is focusing on expanding its Woven by Raines brand, which was created to focus on the full-service, luxury and lifestyle space. The brand is currently comprised of three properties — The Foundry in Asheville, North Carolina; Hotel Florence in Florence; and the more recently acquired Waynesville Inn & Golf Club in Waynesville, North Carolina.

“We will explore true independents, as well, and have a unique differentiation in that we can provide development, investment, and management services, as we are owners ourselves. However, we will put a greater focus on strictly third-party management, especially in the Woven division,” said Gavin Philip, senior vice president of Woven by Raines. “We have several other exciting Woven projects in the works and will continue to focus on making this a big part of the overall Raines company growth strategy.”

The most recent addition to the Woven portfolio — Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa — was purchased in April 2021, with plans to refurbish the guest rooms, golf course, restaurant and add new elements like practice facilities and golf cottages. Now renamed as Waynesville Inn & Golf Club, the first phase of renovation was completed in September. While the entire renovation is expected to take 16 to 24 months to complete, the second phase of the renovation started in November 2021.

“Construction on the golf course, originally designed by prolific golf architect Donald Ross, is also already underway,” Raines added.

“Hospitality will always be our core focus, while allowing growth in areas such as commercial real estate.” – Grey Raines

Focus on third-party management

Despite the company’s focus on equity in some properties, Raines maintains that third-party management is a significant part of the company’s growth plans. Raines’ experience as developers and owners adds a lot of value as compared to their competitors, he adds.

Elaborating on his company’s investment partners, Raines said, “We take outside investment and look for long term partners. We feel very fortunate to have the investment partners that we do and for the continued investment they have made with us.”

Weathering the storm

Despite looking ahead during COVID-19 and launching a refreshed avatar, Raines did not come out unscathed from the effects of the pandemic and the economic crisis that followed. It has been a tough couple of years, Raines added.

“March and April of 2020 forced us to slow down for the first time after years of exponential growth. There is nothing more difficult than having to let go 80% of staff (in April of 2020) because of no fault of their own,” Raines said. “We were able to keep all of our on-property general managers and sales directors as well as our corporate office employed without any furloughs. We are grateful for the team that has weathered the storm with us and continue to do so. We are certainly not out of this, but feel we are on the other side.”

As a way to keep the team motivated during such trying times, Raines introduced initiatives like paid time off rollover from 2020 to 2021 and a points-based system that the staff can use to accumulate points to purchase items.

“Our regionals, VPs and ownership made a dedicated effort to be in front of our employees more and simply say ‘thank you’ at a minimum,” Raines said.