Thomas Baldwin is the new president and CEO of Benihana Inc., the parent company of Benihana, Ra Sushi and Haru Sushi restaurant chains.
He replaces Steve Shlemon, who had held the position since Feb. 2014.
Baldwin currently is on the company’s board of directors and is an advisor of its principal investor, Angelo, Gordon & Co., according to a press release announcing his appointment. According to his LinkedIn page, he also is on the boards of Zoe’s Kitchen Inc., Bravo Brio Restaurant Group, Firebirds Wood Fired Grill Restaurants, and Home Run Inn. Most recently he was CEO of ROI Acquisition Corp. He served as CEO of Morton’s Restaurant Group from 2005 to 2010 and was at that company for 20 years.
Baldwin will be responsible for the company’s 66 Benihana restaurants, seven Haru Sushi restaurants and 27 Ra Sushi restaurants as well as 10 franchised Benihana locations.
"We are very excited to have an executive of Tom's caliber lead Benihana, Ra Sushi and Haru,” Richard Leonard, managing director of Angelo, Gordon’s Private Equity Group, said in the press release. “Having worked directly with Tom for years, we have seen first-hand his commitment to fostering superior people-focused cultures and brands and creating unparalleled guest experiences, while delivering uncompromising quality standards, consistent execution and creative marketing.”
Baldwin said in the release, “I'm enthusiastic to lead the very talented Benihana team and these world-class brands into an important phase of development and growth. Benihana, Ra Sushi and Haru are well-known for their creative and innovative menus and memorable dining experiences. As we build our business with great guest experiences, open new restaurants and enhance our brand value with our guests, I know we will be able to capitalize on the powerful growth opportunity in front of us."