Running a successful club is harder than it looks, say the veterans of London's clubland

Johnny Gold, Tramp (founded 26 years ago)

"If there was a magic success factor, I'd have a string of clubs by now. It's like a musical - sometimes people invest a lot, rehearse, prepare and it goes belly up. It's the right combination of good food, ambiance, staff, music and people. You have to put in many, many hours and hope the sweat and toil pays off. Jackie Collins described Tramp as being like an old hooker - warm, welcoming, makes you feel at home. I hope that's true - that for most of our members it's like walking into their own front room."

Tramp people: George Best, Michael Caine, Andrew Neil.

Peter Stringfellow, Stringfellow's (founded 15 years ago)

"I'm the most nightclub-lifestyle nightclub owner in the world. I love my club, I live above it, I'm there every night. Successful businessmen think 'Oh, I spend a lot of time in clubs, why don't I buy one' - that's like me saying 'I spend a lot of time at football matches, I'll go and play for England.' In six months they realise it's hard work. The first thing I'd say to anyone starting up is get divorced, do it now, you may as well, it'll come sooner or later. The other thing is the team of people round me - they've all been with me 10 years or more."

Stringfellow's people: Rod Stewart, Chris Quinten, and, lately, Blur and Oasis.

Tony Mackintosh, MD and founder member, The Groucho Club (founded 10 years ago)

"First of all, the members - people join a club to see their friends and peers and talk, so you need a core group with common requirements. Secondly, the management must be sympathetic -I always try to teach the managers that we are club servants, that this person is coming back tomorrow so we'd better look after him. And thirdly, as Mr Hilton said, location, location, location - it has to be convenient. You might go out of your way once in a while, but not regularly."

Groucho people: Melvyn Bragg, Stephen Fry, Nigella Lawson, Mariella Frostrup.

Anton Mosimann, Mosimann's (founded 7 years ago)

"I'm lucky because I have a wonderful, unique building that used to be a church. The food is vital - lots of foodies joined straightaway. But one of the most important things is knowing people. We know as many members as possible personally - their likes and dislikes, so we can spoil them. All members get birthday cards and if we know they have had a success, we keep in touch then also. To know people individually we have to limit numbers - people enjoy exclusivity. That's why this is a club, not a restaurant - people come two or three times a week and we can take care of them."

Mosimann's people: Britt Ekland, Mona Bauwens, ladies who lunch.

Liz Brewer, socialite and PR of many launches

"It's down to atmosphere - and, most important, the person behind the club, the person you identify with the establishment. Going to a club is more personal than going to a restaurant, you expect to be treated as a friend and made welcome - at Annabel's, for example, everyone knows you and greets you and you feel they really are pleased to see you. It's people, people, people - it doesn't matter if you're in a barn with sawdust on the floor if the person running the place has charisma. Also, comfort - if a new club's music is too loud or the chairs aren't comfortable or the lighting isn't flattering, you won't bother to try it again."