I used to be involved with an awards event and we switched from a three course sit down meal to a two course with a dessert buffet. The buffet was located in another room and was set up as an opportunity to network. It was hugely successful. People loved that they could get more value out of the event by being able to leave their tables to mix and mingle. And of course, after the awards had been given out everyone had a lot to talk about!
I realise it’s not quite the same as what you’re proposing, but I think it shows that it can be good to shake up the traditional format - especially if you explain the benefit of doing so.