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The Board of Directors of Benihana Inc. (“Benihana”), the nation’s leading operator of Japanese theme and sushi restaurants, today announced that restaurant industry veteran Steve Shlemon has been named the company’s new President and Chief Executive Officer, effective immediately.

Mr. Shlemon joins Benihana after serving as President of Carrabba’s Italian Grill (“Carrabba’s”), which he helped grow from 15 restaurants to more than 230 locations across the United States.  In addition to his 13-year role as President of Carrabba’s, Mr. Shlemon was an Executive Vice President of Bloomin’ Brands Inc. (Nasdaq:BLMN), the parent company of Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill and Carrabba’s.

A 35-year veteran of the industry, Mr. Shlemon was one of Outback Steakhouse’s first franchise partners outside of Florida and was largely responsible for that restaurant chain’s success in northern and western Texas.  Mr. Shlemon began his career at Steak and Ale Restaurant Corporation and was also previously an executive at TGI Fridays Inc.

Mr. Shlemon, who succeeds Richard Stockinger as President and CEO, will be responsible for all 63 Benihana restaurants across the U.S., as well as the Company’s RA Sushi and Haru locations.