I guess I could weigh in on biz model changes I've made over the last 6 months of planning:
- adding a pour bar over as the primary "drip" brew method
- upgraded quality of grinders for espresso
- working on upgrading grinder for drip (have a Bunn G3, trying to get a Guatelama)
- practice, practice, practice
Although I do not own a coffee shop yet, I am planning to open one a year or so after I graduate...
As such I have been spending a lot of time in other shops around Chicago, and combined with my barista experience, i have several observations to note:
1) if food is offered on the menu that requires counter space to prepare , such as pies or quiches, then that counter space should be placed carefully, so that it is convenient for the barista to use, and is in a location that can remain sanitary i.e. used solely for plating and serving food to the customer.
2) Your bar should be offset slightly from the rest of space behind the counter, to allow the barista enough room to stand in his or her own space, without other staff running around them, or bumping them. Every time a barista gets bumped while they are dosing or tamping, their portafilter also gets bumped, which leads to channeling and less than quality drinks...
3) Refrigerators located under the bar should be designated solely for things that the barista will need. It is inefficient and unpractical to expect others to be able to sneak underneath the barista while they are trying to steam milk or pull their shots, and grab either iced tea, iced coffee, or anything else that can typically be stored there. Another note on fridges: if you expect that your shop will be busy enough to double bar, and you want to put your milk fridge under the bar, then you should use sliding doors, because it is difficult for one person to open hinge doors to prep their milk while the other person is standing their pulling shots.
4) careful consideration should be given to the amount of space customers have to stand in line, order, wait for their drink, use the condiment bar, and then exit. Placement of the condiment bar is crucial, because many many many shops expect customers to wait for their lattes in a location that blocks off access to the condiment bar by customers ordering coffee. Trace the path coffee ordering customers may need to take, and then trace the path latte ordering customers will take, and design your layout so the two paths do not cross and cause traffic jams!
5) In most shops, the biggest chore at the end of the night, as well as throughout the day, is doing the dishes. Placement of the sink and dishwasher is crucial to lightening this load. If one person can work on dishes while they are watching the front of the store, then they are able to do a load or two while they wait for customers to walk in the door. Some people prefer that customers do not have to hear/ see the sanitation process. I've seen some very clever systems set up to allow the dishwasher to see the customer while the customer can't see the dirty dishes. Either using a half wall to hide the sink, or a backroom with a window, or mirrors can solve this problem.
6) Things that limit the amount of steps a barista needs to take while preparing a drink, limits the potential places baristas could run into each other behind the bar. Cups for coffee should be next to coffee Urns, which should be near coffee brewers-- Plates and silverware for food should be near pastry cases etc.
Those are six things I have noticed while working with coffee that make a huge difference, and you can really tell which shops thought them through, and which ones didn't. Good luck and I really look forward to hearing what others have to say on the topic!