Koen Lavrijssen from Mr. Winston

The challenging growth of Mr. Winston

At the 'birth' - a few years ago - Mr. Winston, with its new POS system for the hospitality industry, entered the market 'as if a game was being played'. Absolutely serious, but also “… somewhat naive”, as co-founder Koen Lavrijssen tells: “In the beginning we were like a somewhat oversized baby. A great product, without a doubt, but otherwise we were rarely really busy building the company or the market. We also got growing pains, especially when more customers came. Eventually we got through that and then pictured it for ourselves: 'what does the future of this company look like?' I think that Mr. Winston is now in his early twenties. So still plenty to do!”

This “maturity” of Mr.Winston is expressed, according to Lavrijssen, in the vision of the product: "Of course, the technology is the foundation. But if you look at the whole company today, we think that a cash register system requires a lot more than just that cash register. That's why we focus much more on the digital experience of the guest. We call that the “customer journey” and think that, with Mr. Winston, we can do a lot in that respect, especially with our new system of 'Guest Relationship Management'. ”

Making the customer self-sufficient

The development Mr. Winston had in vision did not come easily: "It's been years of hard work. And a lot has changed too. Other people, more customers", Lavrijssen outlines this period. "Look, it's hospitality. And hospitality people say, ‘There are no office hours!’ We, as sellers, are also the customer's point of contact. If something is going on, they pick up the phone.

Over the past year, we have made a lot of improvements in terms of technology. Central to this is that we have made our customers more self-reliant. If, for example, a printer doesn't work, a small screen appears on which a few questions are asked: 'Is it switched on?' or 'Check the cable'. Standard questions, which we would also ask on the phone and with which you solve 90% of the cases."

It simply has to work...

According to Lavrijssen, people are “satisfied” with the way things are going: "I deliberately say satisfied because in the world of (hospitality) cash register systems are never perfect and it is easy to do something wrong. And if you do it right, it quickly fades away again. A POS system is a bit of a 'hygiene factor' in the hospitality industry: it simply has to work. If something is wrong, it's annoying. No, we don't experience people jumping up and down saying ... Hey, how nice, we have a new POS system... It always takes some time getting used to.”

Customer journey as a unique hospitality experience

That apparent nonchalance sometimes contradicts Mr. Winston's work. Lavrijssen: "On the one hand, he asks for a stable system that always works, that has no surprises. On the other hand, they want to take a step forward. Certainly nowadays, where people are working much more with digital means to shape their hospitality experience. So for us it's a matter of latching on with our system, with our butler, Mr. Winston."

So it is Mr. Winston's intention to be in contact with the “guest” at any time during the customer journey and to get to know him, because, according to Koen Lavrijssen, there is a lot of value in the information about the guests: "Guests, indeed, because in the hospitality industry you don't have any customers. And we can 'catch' that knowledge before the experience takes place—for example, when making reservations or making comparisons. But we can also do that during the experience, or towards the end, when the guest gets the receipt. At all those moments, contact can be made with the guest and the experience can be 'enriched'.

People want that. You can also go to any store and buy food or drinks there. But if you go to the hospitality industry, you go for an experience. And if you, by giving away some data about yourself, have a better experience, I think people will want to do that."

Beyond the uncertainty

Looking back on the starting period and the time after, with all the developments so far, Lavrijssen dares—after some hesitation—to claim that Mr. Winston's entire development process has “turned out better than expected.” “In hindsight then," he immediately adds. "When we were just starting, there was a great deal of uncertainty. At some point, you overcome that, when you see it grow. Then you find the time to adjust, instead of gambling. You've achieved some successes, a track record, and that strengthens your conviction.

What we've also seen is that you have to constantly innovate. Only then can you keep up with market developments. You used to have a restaurant, a café, and a hotel and that was it. Now you're starting to get more and more intermediate forms. Almost every café has become an eatery, you have many more lunchrooms or coffee shops, but also combinations of these, for example an ice-cream parlor that also becomes a lunchroom, or a retail business that also includes a catering establishment. People change. They want that diversity, and linked to that they want interaction and a unique experience. In our system, it is now possible for the hospitality entrepreneur to gain insight into his guests and thus offer better service. ”

Support hospitality

There is one more thing going on in this whole story. Lavrijssen: "In the current market, it is very difficult to get good catering staff, which puts pressure on professionalism. You can't expect people who work in the hospitality industry to know everything about every customer. I think you can easily overcome that with technology. If the system tells them, for example, what the guests' preferences are—menu, wine, atmosphere—(and you can find that out at the time of booking via specific questions) then that helps enormously in supporting the hospitality.”

Back to Technique

Faced with these new developments in the market, Koen Lavrijssen also sees that Mr. Winston is still confronted with the bottleneck of the hospitality market: "On average, a cash register system remains in place for about six, seven, eight years. Untouched. The efforts to gain a growing share in this rigid market are enormous. We are therefore investigating with various parties whether they can take over the sales activities for—or together with—us, possibly also take over some of the implementation and support.

We can then go 'back' to technology. Make sure that at some point the system doesn't run up against limitations, but technically create something after which you can take your next step... and the next... and the next."

The connection with Duodeka

In the story of Koen Lavrijssen, the interaction between the two 'pillars' of Mr. Winston always comes up: developing the product on the one hand and marketing—entrepreneurship—on the other. "We have been able to combine that very well," he says, "and that is partly due to the connection with Duodeka. ”

A collaboration that is as special as it is fruitful, it turns out. Lavrijssen: "Duodeka was established shortly after Mr.Winston. We sat down with 10 guys, who all worked in IT and were also developing and selling a product. As Duodeka, we—initially with six men, four of whom have now left—started doing projects in IT. In IT, you have quite nice rates and the idea was that if we worked half of the week on projects, we could 'finance' time with the proceeds to invest in the product. You can also see it that way: Duodeka is the IT investor, for example, in Mr. Winston."

Valuable support

The (young) adult Mr. Winston has grown up thanks to the support from Tilburg University. "Their support has been of great value to us in the beginning," says Koen Lavrijssen, "and we are happy that we can still call on support. It is, certainly in the beginning, but also if you have already taken steps as a company, very valuable if there is someone on the sidelines who monitors you and who knows the parties who can serve as a sounding board, for example, or who can help shape your sales structure or financing. We would like to continue to benefit from that.”