Restaurants Appear Deceptively Closer in Yelp

Like almost every other SF inhabitant, I have a passion for great food. A byproduct of this hobby is that I’m often on Yelp scoping out new places to try. Other than gauging the quality of the dining experiences by reading reviews, I’m also on the lookout to see how far a restaurant is from my current location.

Recently I noticed a discrepancy between the distance as called out by Yelp search results as compared to the driving directions I received when using Google Maps. Take the following example. While I was in Dillon Beach, CA, I found a restaurant in a nearby city called Barley and Hops Tavern. According to the Yelp search results, this dining establishment was located 10.3 miles away.

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However, when I queried Google Maps for directions between my current address and the restaurant’s address, I received a significantly different result in terms of distance:

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According to Yelp, the restaurant was 10.3 miles away, but according to Google Maps, it was at least 16.2 miles away. Who was right, and who was wrong? Could it be possible that one of these sites is using incorrect data to calculate the distance or has a bug in their distance algorithm.

The funny thing is – I think both sites are correct, but for different reasons. The reason why the distance on Yelp looks significantly shorter is that Yelp is computing the distance as the crow flies. In other words, while Google is computing the driving distance (which takes into consideration turns and zig zags in different directions), Yelp is considering the distance on the map if you were to physically draw a straight line between the two points.

In terms of what’s best for the user, the expectation is to see how far the two points are – not for geographical curiosity – but for the purposes of planning a trip from point A to point B. That being said, the Google way (not computing as the crow flies) of calculating the actual driving distance is ideal and the preferred way to go.