Managing Director – Benihana Restaurants

Recruitment case study

The brief

Rocky ‘Hiroaki’ Aoki, the pioneer of  Teppan-Yaki dining, opened the first Benihana restaurant in New York City in 1964.

The master franchise for Benihana outside the USA was acquired by Minor Food Group in May 2018, after 30 years of successfully operating Benihana franchised restaurants in Thailand. As the UK restaurant market was in decline, multiple new openings were not advisable. It was, however, apparent that there was a lot of interest from the international market for developing the estate through franchises.

psd was retained to search for a Managing Director who would be tasked with driving the franchised partnership model forwards, the remit being to grow Benihana through equity restaurants in the UK and through franchise agreements around the world.

A strong and sales-focussed approach was essential, with keen operational and openings experience to get the partnerships off the ground.  The role could be based anywhere in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa or Asia, as considerable travel between the parent company in Thailand and the partnerships would be required.

The solution

Candidates were sourced through psd’s existing network of UK and international markets, alongside a proactive project to identify new targets. Sophisticated selection and screening processes ensured the best possible candidates were identified for the role.

Relevant candidates were then invited to attend competency based interviews, and their motivations for the role and their ability to promote operational collaboration were closely scrutinised.

The results

One particular candidate, whose career was outstandingly well matched to the brief, stood out to the client. The COO met with the candidate a few days later. The meeting was successful, however the candidate was about to leave, driving through France to Morocco with his family for a four week holiday.

psd carried out thorough referencing for the candidate whilst he was away, all of which endorsed his suitability for the role. The candidate showed a great deal of interest in the opportunity, and when the client asked if he would be willing to sacrifice some of his holiday to fly to Thailand and meet the Executive team, the candidate agreed to do so.

By the time the candidate had returned from holiday, psd had negotiated his remuneration package and he signed his contract. He has settled in well and is now tasked with accelerating the growth of the Benihana brand through hotels and retail with franchise partners across the globe.


Business Sector: Hotels, Travel & Leisure
Executive Recruiter: Caroline Gaunt, Principal Consultant