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It's not your imagination: Restaurant prices are going up

(iStock/webphotographeer)

Going out to eat is costing you more. 

Prices at full-service restaurants are going up, according to the US Department of Labor. Experts say increased expenses such as rent, insurance, and labor are getting passed on to consumers. 

In December, prices at full-service restaurants were up 0.5 percent from the prior month on a seasonally adjusted basis, the biggest monthly increase since March 2011, according to the consumer price index.

In January, full-service restaurant prices were up 2.7 percent from a year earlier, which is above the 1.6 percent annual rise for inflation overall.

Staff pay could be the biggest contribution to rising restaurant prices nationally. Although Virginia isn't one of them, some states have raised the minimum wage and a tight labor market is forcing restaurants to pay more to recruit and retain employees. 

For tipped employees in Virginia, the minimum wage is $2.13, as long as the $2.13 plus tips equals at least $7.25, if the employee keeps all the tips, and if the employee usually gets more than $30 a month in tips. If not, the employer must make up the difference.

More states are moving away from that, and now require employers to pay the full federal minimum wage of $7.25, regardless of tips.