Benihana Inc. has named former Bloomin’ Brands Inc. executive Steve Shlemon president and chief executive officer effective immediately, the company said Wednesday.

Shlemon was most recently president of Carrabba’s Italian Grill and executive vice president of its Tampa, Fla.-based parent Bloomin’ Brands, which is also parent to Outback Steakhouse. Last week, Shlemon said he would step down from those positions on Feb. 14.

At Benihana, Shlemon replaces Richard Stockinger, who served as president and CEO since 2009, when Benihana was a public company.

Benihana was taken private in a $296 million deal with New York-based private-equity firm Angelo, Gordon & Co. in 2012.

Richard Leonard, managing director of Angelo, Gordon & Co., thanked Stockinger for his dedication, passion and service. “He has been a vital member of the Benihana family and his expertise was instrumental in the success of the company’s renewal program. We are sincerely grateful for all of Rich’s hard work and wish him all the best in his future endeavors. I am confident he will have continued success,” he said in a statement.

Shlemon served as Carrabba’s president for 13 years, growing the casual-dining chain from 15 units to more than 230 locations. He was also one of Outback Steakhouse’s first franchisees outside of Florida and helped build the brand in Texas. He began his career at Steak and Ale Restaurant Corp., and also worked at T.G.I. Friday’s Inc.

Miami-based Benihana Inc. operates 63 Benihana locations across the U.S., as well as 25 RA Sushi units and seven Haru restaurants. Another 15 Benihana locations are operated by franchisees.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
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