As a generalization, restaurant prices have remained flat for the last few years.  As a tool to entice recession-battered U.S. consumers into their establishments, restaurant owners used lower prices to their benefit.

Now as the economy rebounds, things are changing.

Rising worldwide food costs have the U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasting a rise in restaurant prices of three to four percent this year. The predicted bump comes after restaurant prices nationally only rose 1.3 percent in 2010, the lowest annual increase on the books since 1955. But with prices for corn and wheat spiking upwards, that's changing quickly.

Some menus will be hit harder than others.

The restaurants that are expected to be hit the worst by the rise in food prices are those focusing on Italian and Mexican foods, as the costs of "driven by big increases in such ingredients as bread and pasta, up 23 percent, and potatoes, up 21 percent."

However - it might still be more economical to eat out than to cook at home.

The USDA does have one tiny bit of good news for restaurant owners: As much as

restaurant prices are expected to rise this year, grocery prices are expected to rise more. The USDA forecasts grocery store prices will rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent this year.