How will you know inflation's back?
In recent years, a slack economy kept the inflation rate penned in. But recently, a writer for Forbes noted that his order for a three-piece takeout chicken dinner with coleslaw, baked beans and a drink came to nearly $10, or a $40 dinner out for a family of four. That's not chicken feed.
Whether this means inflation has sprung the coop is yet to be determined, however. Inflation hawks see cause for alarm, but the latest Consumer Price Index showed food away from home is only up 1.5 percent over the past 12 months.
Still, experts agree restaurant prices -- and fast food in particular -- are one of the more reliable inflation indicators, and it isn't always visible to the naked eye. Even if costs seem stable, for instance, restaurant chains can effectively raise prices by curtailing discounts like coupons and in-store specials.