Always Developing: Raines Managing Partner David Tart on His Path to a Fulfilling Partnership and Career


A “military brat” headed for a career in medicine, David Tart stumbled into commercial real estate and then the development side of hospitality after the U.S. government built an interstate through his family’s farm. Now a managing partner of the hotel development, management, and investment company Raines, Tart described for LODGING the twists and turns his career took after he discovered his affinity for hotel development. Ultimately, he found the right partner, co-managing partner Grey Raines, with whom he shares a vision and approach to hotel ownership, development, and management.

Tart recalled the series of events that led him to the hospitality industry. Facing the challenge of what to do with three acres of commercial real estate around the interstate, he said he explored the idea of developing a hotel. In 2005, he managed to talk Hilton into giving him a Hampton Inn franchise, in Dunn, North Carolina. Although Tart said he was initially clueless about how to proceed, hospitality veterans David Swentor and Duane Parrish guided him through the process of building and opening that first hotel. This experience, he maintained, sparked a passion for development and paved the way for numerous high-quality hotel projects, including a Hampton Inn in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The hotel opened in 2008, after he spent four years working with the municipality and other local government officials to allow hospitality development in the area’s beachside community.

Later developments included the Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and the Foundry Hotel, a rehabilitation of an old steel mill in the heart of downtown Asheville, North Carolina. Tart developed the latter property, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, before partnering with Raines in the emerging boutique hotel niche.

Through the many projects with various partners, Tart said his passion for development grew ever stronger. “I love the whole process of developing a product—discovering a site, whether it’s a core branded prototypical asset or something unique, like an adaptive reuse or soft brand, and taking it from start to finish,” he related.

Joining Raines

Despite his preference for development, Tart always appreciated the importance of operations, saying, “It’s good to know every aspect of the business, and operations is critical in terms of evaluating the success of a hotel when you’re developing it.” Therefore, he said, he always took care to balance his focus on development with an operations expert by hiring a third-party manager, intending to eventually start his own management company or partner with one. This he did in 2017, formally joining the family business of his friend and occasional project-partner Grey Raines.

Now close friends who spend time relaxing on the golf course and on vacation as well as working together, Tart described his relationship with Raines as being much like a happy marriage of sorts. “We are very much in alliance and excited about where we go from here,” he said, adding that their approaches to the business melded well. Both remembered and took to heart lessons from the Great Recession of 2008-2010 and the recent pandemic: “Whatever the next thing is, we know you have to be able to pivot.” They also shared a similar vision about development, management, and how they wanted to approach and grow the business. For example, they would put some projects on the backburner and proceed with others, such as the acquisition of HP Hotels, when it made sense to do so.

Acquiring HP Hotels

Regarding their acquisition of that full-service, third-party hotel management company, Tart said, “We acquired HP Hotels as a mechanism for growth—it expanded Raines’ footprint geographically beyond the Southeast, adding properties in the Southwest, including Texas and Oklahoma—but we also did it because it made sense for our company. In addition to acquiring third-party management contracts, it also added HP’s expertise and capabilities to our portfolio, with a team of talented individuals who share our values and commitment to providing exceptional hospitality.”

It also brought into the Raines portfolio HP’s independent and soft-branded properties, eight of which are now under the auspices of a specialized division of the company called Woven by Raines. As Tart explained, “We created Woven by Raines because, although there is still a tremendous amount of opportunity working with the world’s leading brands, with Woven, we have the flexibility and the creativity to develop, own, and operate truly special assets, which are sometimes a little more challenging to produce; this lets us provide the unique experience the traveler is looking for.”

Among these assets is one especially close to the heart of both Tart and Raines, who are avid golfers—the newly opened Waynesville Inn & Golf Club Trademark Collection by Wyndham, in Waynesville, North Carolina, with a golf course designed in 1926 by famed golf architect Donald Ross.

Growth Plans

Looking ahead, Tart discussed the company’s plan for “strategic growth” in both internal and external terms. “We’re not looking to grow just for the sake of growing; we take a thoughtful approach in continuing to grow our third-party management company as well as our in-house development projects and ownership,” he said. “And we’ll always consider future acquisitions while being flexible in how we grow the organization.”

That said, Tart claimed the immediate priority is the integration of HP Hotels, which more than doubled the number of hotels Raines now manages—taking it from 20 to nearly 50. With that expansion came the need to optimally manage the talent they added.

Tart described Raines’ overarching objective as follows: “Our goal is to be a highly sought after, experienced, full-service development hotel organization that covers the full lifecycle of hospitality—from the point of discovery, to opening and managing it successfully, to exiting the asset. We may have to weather tough markets, but if we’re always learning and getting better in every area of the hotel lifecycle, I believe we’ll grow and also do right by the folks that work for us, with the result being an organization that is sustainable and a really great place for our team to work and grow professionally.”

Four Lessons from a Principled Father and a Nearly 20-year Hospitality Career

Raines managing partner David Tart highlighted some of the lessons learned from early mentors and a career trajectory that saw both the Great Recession of 2008-2010 and the worldwide COVID pandemic beginning in 2020.

Act with integrity. From his father, a military man Tart called “my biggest mentor, influencer, and best friend,” he learned about the importance of personal integrity. “In the military environment especially, this has a lot to do with how you communicate with people, your work ethic, and doing what you say you’re going to do. This is something I’ve tried to teach my own kids. Do what you say you’re going to do; if you make a mistake, admit it, learn from it, and move on.”

Be able to pivot. From the worldwide pandemic and the Great Recession, Tart learned about “how to adapt to the ever-evolving landscape of the hospitality industry. The key is flexibility and being able to move efficiently through whatever comes our way. I also learned that no matter how good a project is, you might not be able to move forward with it.” Raines, he said, has adapted with a proven approach taken in many successful enterprises: “By having expertise in the development, management, and investment sides of the business, we can shift when we need to shift and continue to operate, remain sustainable, and grow when we need to grow.”

Find the right partners. Over the years, Tart always strove to learn more himself, while also recognizing the value of others’ contributions and actively seeking and accepting their support. He pointed to his partnership with Grey Raines, who has different strengths but shares a vision with Tart. “While my experience lies primarily on the development side, Grey comes from a very strong operations background, and he’s better at developing relationships than just about anybody.”

Explore career paths. Tart has also learned that hospitality is a land of opportunity, although that may not be readily apparent. As he told his own daughter, fresh from an underwhelming stint at the front desk of one of Raines’ properties, “What’s great about the hospitality industry is that it’s everything from operations and management to sales, to food and beverage, to events and catering. Of course, there’s the development side I love, with architecture and interior design. But there’s much more, including the financial and investment sides, human resources, marketing, and now social media and digital technology.”

Previous articleIHG Hotels & Resorts Updates Digital Booking Experience
Next articleThe Fight for Franchising: AHLA Opposes New Jersey Legislation Threatening the Hotel Franchise Model