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THE global credit crunch is turning Melbourne into a fast-food city.

Takeaway outlets, cafes and restaurants are multiplying in the CBD, spurred by the downturn in consumer retail spending and an increasing number of people living in apartments.

In the CBD's retail core - about 777 shops bordered by Swanston, Bourke, Collins and Spring streets - the mix of food outlets has risen 3.7 per cent over five years, according to agents Knight Frank Australia.

But the foodie's nirvana comes at the expense of traditional retail outlets. It has also resulted in larger tenancies being carved up to make way for smaller leases. Reduced tenancy sizes are less of a risk for landlords and provide a better per square metre rate, which is ideally suited to food retailers that operate within smaller spaces, agents say.

Consumers are cutting back on fashion and other spending and instead opting to go out for a meal, said Richard Jenkins, research director at Knight Frank.

''People want that cheap luxury. They see takeaway food and cosmetics as providing that,'' he said.

The number of cafes and restaurants in the CBD has risen from 796 to 1193 in a decade, Knight Frank estimates.

Not all city inhabitants support the change. Fast-food outlets are often noisy and attract a clientele that disturbs apartment residents.

Other figures support the trend. By CBRE's reckoning, specialist food retailing now equates for more than 27 per cent of the CBD retail core's total tenancy mix.

Five years ago that proportion was 20 per cent, senior research analyst Erin Obliubek says

A steady influx of food tenants has taken over since the GFC, although clothing still remains the dominant business, accounting for 31 per cent of the CBD's overall tenancy mix, Ms Obliubek said.

The list of recent arrivals is extensive. Guzman y Gomez, Lord Of The Fries, Meet Fresh, Easy Way, Gyoza Douraku, Snack Delight, Starbucks, Dog Nation and Snack House are just a few.

A large proportion of new food retailers are Asian focused.

New outlets Meet Fresh (a Taiwanese dessert house), Easy Way and Snack House cater for Asian tastes.

The majority of new foodies to lease space have opted for Swanston and Bourke streets. Between them they have 94 food outlets.

Elizabeth Street has 26, slightly ahead of the popular Degraves Street, where there are 19.

''These particular locations have a high level of foot traffic given they are situated near universities and CBD shopping centres such as QV,'' Ms Obliubek said.