National Restaurant Properties CLT is not a fledgling business. The company got its start 45 years ago, when its founder, Bob Dowdy, began selling the restaurants that he actually owned and operated. Today, their website notes that they are the largest food service business brokerage firm in the nation.
The Charlotte office of National Restaurant Properties is home to Patty Dowdy, the founder's daughter. She explained to us that the business' deep roots in the past are a strong foundation upon which to build, but also lead to some workflow practices that are a bit...traditional. Suffice it to say that nobody was looking for a CRM in 1968. Or 1978. Or 1988. Old habits took deep root over many years of business.
"Well, I guess one thing our office lacked, in general, is organization. And since we've been around awhile and the company is headed by somebody who is in their 70s -- we were needing to make a change from analog to digital, I guess you could say."
Patty's office had considered some software solutions in the past, but ultimately found Less Annoying CRM by chance -- their office in another city sent her our way. Patty took a shine to the CRM right away, and decided to shape it into an "office organizational tool."
Customization was key for Patty. It was a major shortcoming of previous real-estate-specific software they had considered in the past, which was rigid and felt permanent. National Restaurant Properties works in a very specific niche, and generalized approaches to real estate didn't make any sense for their business brokerage work.
Patty took to customizing their CRM with gusto. The first pipeline she created from the ground up was, as it is at many real estate businesses, Listings. One report to track the status of her active listings, a handy reference for the day-to-day work of connecting sellers and buyers. But she didn't stop there, and over time she built out a variety of other pipelines that are specifically suited for the work that National Restaurant Properties does on a day-to-day basis. A Closings pipeline tracks the progress as deals enter the final stages. Another pipeline tracks Leasing situations, which is a different process entirely from the selling and buying of property. Another pipeline tracks Buyers. And each pipeline is flushed out with custom fields that collect the pertinent information to that process, fine-tuned to the work of restaurant real estate brokerage.
"Well, I guess, the fact that it is so customizable, you know? Like, once you do it, it's not like you can't change it. And as I learn more -- because I haven't been doing this but, like, three years -- I can add more things. Today I added a bunch of stuff to our closings pipeline because I'm learning more about how to do them. So it's not like you build it, and then you click save, and that's your program. I like that it's ever-changing."
The result has been a real boon in organization. Aside from creating a digital structure for the many different processes at their business, Patty has also been able to upload key files like listing agreements so that they can be accessed by agents in the field. The email logging lets her keep her back-and-forth communication in one place with those files, her tasks and events, and every other piece of history with each contact and company in the system.
"This is gonna sound really cheesy, but I feel like I'm more in control of my day-to-day life, and our transactions. That's it, I just feel like I have control over things now."
The work of pushing adoption to the other users on her company's account has not been easy, but Patty hopes to eventually get complete buy-in from all of the agents in the office. After all, a CRM works best when anyone can use it to get any piece of information about any account or client.
National Restaurant Properties is a great example of how a strongly-entrenched, successful family business can move into the digital age without fundamentally changing the things that make their business great. Everyone at the company has owned or worked extensively in the restaurant business. They know their space, and they've been doing their work for decades -- they need a system that will conform to their existing business practices, not force them to make arbitrary changes. And that's why Less Annoying CRM has been a great fit.